Skip to main content

Full text of ""Essays before a sonata""

See other formats


an 




Class"PS ^^/7 
BookV?) E7 
CopightN" /^j^ 

CiiraRIGHT DEPOSm 



"ESSAYS BEFORE A 
SONATA" 



BY .^ 

CHARLES EMVES 



Ube ikntcftetbocket press 

NEW YORK 
1920 






Copyright, 1920 

BY 

C. E. IVES 



MAV -2 1921 



0)C!,A611985 



r= 






" These prefatory essays were written by the composer for those 
who can't stand his music — and the music for those who can't stand 
his essays ; to those who can't stand either, the whole is respectfully 
dedicated." 



CONTENTS 




I. — Prologue 


PAGE 

3 


II. — Emerson 


II 


III. — Hawthorne .... 


. 46 


IV.— " The Alcotts " .... 


51 


V. — Thoreau 


. 56 


VI. — Epilogue ..... 


. 81 



The following pages were written primarily as a preface or 
reason for the [writer's] second Pianoforte Sonata — "Concord, 
Mass., 1845," — a group of four pieces, called a sonata for want 
of a more exact name, as the form, perhaps substance, does not 
justify it. The music and prefaces were intended to be printed 
together, but as it was found that this would make a cumber- 
some volume they are separate. The whole is an attempt to 
present [one person's] impression of the spirit of transcendentalism 
that is associated in the minds of many with Concord, Mass., 
of over a half century ago. This is undertaken in impression- 
istic pictures of Emerson and Thoreau, a sketch of the Alcotts, 
and a Scherzo supposed to reflect a lighter quality which is often 
found in the fantastic side of Hawthorne. The first and last 
movements do not aim to give any programs of the life or of 
any particular work of either Emerson or Thoreau but rather 
composite pictures or impressions. They are, however, so general 
in outline that, from some viewpoints, they may be as far from 
accepted impressions (from true conceptions, for that matter) 
as the valuation which they purport to be of the influence of 
the life, thought, and character of Emerson and Thoreau is 
inadequate. 



Essays Before a Sonata 



I 

PROLOGUE 



How far is anyone justified, be he an authorit}^ or 
a layman, in expressing or trying to express in terms 
of music (in sounds, if you like) the value of anything, 
material, moral, intellectual, or spiritual, which is 
usually expressed in terms other than music? How 
far afield can music go and keep honest as well as 
reasonable or artistic? Is it a matter limited only 
by the composer's power of expressing what lies in 
his subjective or objective consciousness? Or is it 
limited by any limitations of the composer? Can 
a tune literally represent a stonewall with vines on 
it or with nothing on it, though it (the tune) be made 
by a genius whose power of objective contemplation 
is in the highest state of development? Can it be 
done by anything short of an act of mesmerism on 
the part of the composer or an act of kindness on the 
part of the listener? Does the extreme materializing 
of music appeal strongly to anyone except to those 
without a sense of humor — or rather with a sense 
of humor? — or, except, possibly to those who 

3 



4 PROLOGUE 

might excuse it, as Herbert Spencer might by the 
theory that the sensational element (the sensations 
we hear so much about in experimental psychology) 
is the true pleasurable phenomenon in music and 
that the mind should not be allowed to interfere? 
Does the success of program music depend more upon 
the program than upon the music? If it does, what 
is the use of the music, if it does not, what is the use 
of the program? Does not its appeal depend to a 
great extent on the listener's willingness to accept 
the theory that music is the language of the emotions 
and only that? Or inversely does not this theory 
tend to limit music to programs? — a limitation as 
bad for music itself — for its wholesome progress, — as 
a diet of program music is bad for the listener's abil- 
ity to digest an3^thing beyond the sensuous (or 
physical-emotional). To a great extent this depends 
on what is meant by emotion or on the assump- 
tion that the word as used above refers more to the 
expression, of, rather than to a meaning in a deeper 
sense — which may be a feeling inifluenced by some 
experience perhaps of a spiritual nature in the expres- 
sion of which the intellect has some part. "The 
nearer we get to the mere expression of emotion," 
says Professor Sturt in his Philosophy of Art and 
Personality as in the antics of boys who have been 
promised a holiday, the further we get away from art." 
On the other hand is not all music, program-music, 
— is not pure music, so called, representative in its 
essence? Is it not program-music raised to the 
nth power or rather reduced to the minus nth 
power? Where is the line to be drawn between the 



PROLOGUE 5 

expression of subjective and objective emotion? 
It is easier to know what each is than when each 
becomes what it is. The " Separateness of Art" 
theory — that art is not life but a reflection of it — 
"that art is not vital to life but that life is vital to it," 
does not help us. Nor does Thoreau who says not 
that "life is art," but that "life is an art," which of 
course is a different thing than the foregoing. Tolstoi 
is even more helpless to himself and to us. For he 
eliminates further. From his definition of art we 
may learn little more than that a kick in the back 
is a work of art, and Beethoven's 9th Symphony is not. 
Experiences are passed on from one man to another. 
Abel knew that. And now we know it. But where 
is the bridge placed? — at the end of the road or only 
at the end of our vision? Is it all a bridge? — or is 
there no bridge because there is no gulf? Suppose 
that a composer writes a piece of music conscious that 
he is inspired, say, by witnessing an act of great self- 
sacrifice — another piece by the contemplation of a 
certain trait of nobility he perceives in a friend's 
character — and another by the sight of a mountain 
lake under moonlight. The first two, from an inspira- 
tional standpoint would naturally seem to come un- 
der the subjective and the last under the objective, 
yet the chances are, there is something of the quality 
of both in all. There may have been in the first 
instance physical action so intense or so dramatic 
in character that the remembrance of it aroused a 
great deal more objective emotion than the composer 
was conscious of while writing the music. In the 
third instance, the music may have been influenced 



6 PROLOGUE 

strongly though subconsciously by a vague remem- 
brance of certain thoughts and feelings, perhaps of 
a deep religious or spiritual nature, which suddenly 
came to him upon realizing the beauty of the scene 
and which overpowered the first sensuous pleasure 
— perhaps some such feeling as of the conviction of 
immortality, that Thoreau experienced and tells 
about in W olden. "I penetrated to those meadows 
. . . when the wild river and the woods were bathed 
in so pure and bright a light as would have waked 
the dead if they had been slumbering in their graves 
as some suppose. There needs no stronger proof of 
immortality." Enthusiasm must permeate it, but 
what it is that inspires an art-effort is not easily 
determined much less classified. The word "inspire" 
is used here in the sense of cause rather than effect. 
A critic may say that a certain movement is not 
inspired. But that may be a matter of taste — perhaps 
the most inspired music sounds the least so — to the 
critic. A true inspiration may lack a true expression 
unless it is assumed that if an inspiration is not true 
enough to produce a true expression — (if there be 
anyone who can definitely determine what a true 
expression is) — it is not an inspiration at all. 

Again suppose the same composer at another time 
writes a piece of equal merit to the other three, as 
estimates go; but holds that he is not conscious of 
what inspired it — that he had nothing definite in 
mind — that he was not aware of any mental image or 
process — that, naturally, the actual work in creating 
something gave him a satisfying feeling of pleasure 
perhaps of elation. What will you substitute for 



PROLOGUE 7 

the mountain lake, for his friend's character, etc.? 
Will you substitute anything? If so why? If so 
what? Or is it enough to let the matter rest on the 
pleasure mainly physical, of the tones, their color, 
succession, and relations, formal or informal? Can 
an inspiration come from a blank mind? Well — he 
tries to explain and says that he was conscious of 
some emotional excitement and of a sense of something 
beautiful, he doesn't know exactly what — a vague 
feeling of exaltation or perhaps of profound sadness. 

What is the source of these instinctive feelings, 
these vague intuitions and introspective sensations? 
The more we try to analyze the more vague they 
become. To pull them apart and classify them as 
"subjective" or "objective" or as this or as that, 
means, that they may be well classified and that is 
about all; it leaves us as far from the origin as ever. 
What does it all mean? What is behind it all ? The 
"voice of God," says the artist, "the voice of the 
devil," says the man in the front row. Are we, be- 
cause we are, human beings, born with the power 
of innate perception of the beautiful in the abstract 
so that an inspiration can arise through no external 
stimuli of sensation or experience, — no association 
with the outward? Or was there present in the above 
instance, some kind of subconscious, instantaneous, 
composite image, of all the mountain lakes this man 
had ever seen blended as kind of overtones with the 
various traits of nobility of many of this friends 
embodied in one personality? Do all inspirational 
images, states, conditions, or whatever they may be 
truly called, have for a dominant part, if not for a 



8 PROLOGUE 

source, some actual experience in life or of the social 
relation ? To think that they do not — always at least 
— would be a relief; but as we are trying to consider 
music made and heard by htunan beings (and not 
by birds or angels) it seems difficult to suppose that 
even subconscious images can be separated from 
some human experience — there must be something 
behind subconsciousness to produce consciousness, 
and so on. But whatever the elements and origin 
of these so-called images are, that they do stir deep 
emotional feelings and encourage their expression is 
a part of the unknowable we know. They do often 
arouse something that has not yet passed the border 
line between subconsciousness and consciousness — 
an artistic intuition (well named, but) — object and 
cause unknown! — here is a program! — conscious or 
subconscious what does it matter? Why try to 
trace any stream that flows through the garden of 
consciousness to its source only to be confronted 
by another problem of tracing this source to its 
source? Perhaps Emerson in the Rhodora answers 
by not trying to explain 

That if eyes were made for seeing 

Then beauty is its own excuse for being: 

Why thou wert there, O, rival of the rose! 

I never thought to ask, I never knew; 

But, in my simple ignorance, suppose 

The self-same Power that brought me there brought you. 

Perhaps Sturt answers by substitution: "We can- 
not explain the origin of an artistic intuition any 
more than the origin of any other primary function 



PROLOGUE 9 

of our nature. But if as I believe civilization is 
mainly founded on those kinds of unselfish human 
interests which we call knowledge and morality it is 
easily intelligible that we should have a parallel 
interest which we call art closely akin and lending 
powerful support to the other two. It is intelligible 
too that moral goodness, intellectual power, high 
vitality, and strength should be approved by the 
intuition." This reduces, or rather brings the prob- 
lem back to a tangible basis namely: — the transla- 
tion of an artistic intuition into musical sounds 
approving and reflecting, or endeavoring to approve 
and reflect, a "moral goodness," a "high vitality," 
etc., or any other human attribute mental, moral, or 
spiritual. 

Can music do more than this? Can it do this? 
and if so who and what is to determine the degree of 
its failure or success? The composer, the performer 
(if there be any), or those who have to listen? One 
hearing or a century of hearings? — and if it isn't 
successful or if it doesn't fail what matters it? — the 
fear of failure need keep no one from the attempt for 
if the composer is sensitive he need but launch forth 
a countercharge of "being misunderstood" and hide 
behind it. A theme that the composer sets up as 
"moral goodness" may sound like "high vitality," 
to his friend and but like an outburst of "nervous 
weakness" or only a "stagnant pool" to those not 
even his enemies. Expression to a great extent is a 
matter of terms and terms are anyone's. The mean- 
ing of "God" may have a billion interpretations if 
there be that many souls in the world. 



lo PROLOGUE 

There is a moral in the "Nominalist and Realist" 
that will prove all sums. It runs something like 
this: No matter how sincere and confidential men 
are in trying to know or assuming that they do know 
each other's mood and habits of thought, the net 
result leaves a feeling that all is left unsaid; for the 
reason of their incapacity to know each other, though 
they use the same words. They go on from one 
explanation to another but things seem to stand about 
as they did in the beginning ''because of that vicious 
assumption." But we would rather believe that 
music is beyond any analogy to word language and 
that the time is coming, but not in our lifetime, when 
it will develop possibilities unconceivable now, — a 
language, so transcendent, that its heights and depths 
will be common to all mankind. 



II 

EMERSON 



It has seemed to the writer, that Emerson is greater 
— his identity more complete perhaps — in the realms 
or revelation — natural disclosure — than in those of 
poetry, philosophy, or prophecy. Though a great 
poet and prophet, he is greater, possibly, as an invader 
of the unknown, — America's deepest explorer of the 
spiritual immensities, — a seer painting his discoveries 
in masses and with any color that may lie at hand 
— cosmic, religious, human, even sensuous; a recorder, 
freely describing the inevitable struggle in the soul's 
uprise — perceiving from this inward source alone, 
that every "ultimate fact is only the first of a new 
series"; a discoverer, whose heart knows, with Vol- 
taire, "that man seriously reflects when left alone," 
and would then discover, if he can, that "wondrous 
chain which links the heavens with earth — the world 
of beings subject to one law." In his reflections 
Emerson, unlike Plato, is not afraid to ride Arion's 
Dolphin, and to go wherever he is carried — to Parnassus 
or to " Musket aquid." 

We see him standing on a summit, at the door of 
the infinite where many men do not care to climb. 



12 EMERSON 

peering into the mysteries of life, contemplating the 
eternities, hurling back whatever he discovers there, 
— now, thunderbolts for us to grasp, if we can, 
and translate — now placing quietly, even tenderly, 
in our hands, things that we ma}^ see without 
effort — if we won't see them, so much the worse for 
us. 

We see him, — a mountain-guide, so intensely on 
the lookout for the trail of his star, that he has no 
time to stop and retrace his footprints, which may 
often seem indistinct to his followers, who find it 
easier and perhaps safer to keep their eyes on the 
ground. And there is a chance that this guide could 
not always retrace his steps if he tried — and why 
should he! — he is on the road, conscious only that, 
though his star may not lie within walking distance, 
he must reach it before his wagon can be hitched to 
it — a Prometheus illuminating a privilege of the 
Gods — lighting a fuse that is laid towards men. 
Emerson reveals the less not by an analysis of itself, 
but b}^ bringing men towards the greater. He does 
not try to reveal, personally, but leads, rather, to a 
field where revelation is a harvest-part, where it is 
known by the perceptions of the soul towards the 
absolute law. He leads us towards this law, which is 
a realization of what experience has suggested and 
philosophy hoped for. He leads us, conscious that the 
aspects of truth, as he sees them, may change as often 
as truth remains constant. Revelation perhaps, is 
but prophecy intensified — the intensifying of its 
mason-work as well as its steeple. Simple prophecy, 
while concerned with the past, reveals but the future, 



EMERSON 13 

while revelation is concerned with all time. The 
power in Emerson's prophecy confuses it with — or at 
least makes it seem to approach — revelation. It is 
prophecy with no time element. Emerson tells, as 
few bards could, of what will happen in the past, for 
his future is eternity and the past is a part of that. 
And so like all true prophets, he is always modern, 
and will grow modern with the years — for his sub- 
stance is not relative but a measure of eternal truths 
determined rather by a universalist than by a partial- 
ist. He measured, as Michel Angelo said true artists 
should, "with the eye and not the hand." But to 
attribute modernism to his substance, though not to 
his expression, is an anachronism — and as futile as 
calling to-day's sunset modern. 

As revelation and prophecy, in their common 
acceptance are resolved by man, from the absolute 
and universal, to the relative and personal, and as 
Emerson's tendency is fundamentally the opposite, 
it is easier, safer and so apparently clearer, to think of 
him as a poet of natural and revealed philosophy. 
And as such, a prophet — but not one to be confused 
with those singing soothsayers, whose pockets are 
filled, as are the pockets of conservative-reaction 
and radical demagoguery in pupit, street-corner, 
bank and columns, with dogmatic fortune-tellings. 
Emerson, as a prophet in these lower heights, was a 
conservative, in that he seldom lost his head, and a 
radical, in that he seldom cared whether he lost it or 
not. He was a born radical as are all true conser- 
vatives. He was too much "absorbed by the abso- 
lute," too much of the universal to be either — though 



14 EMERSON 

he could be both at once. To Cotton Mather, he 
would have been a demagogue, to a real demagogue he 
would not be understood, as it was with no self inter- 
est that he laid his hand on reality. The nearer any 
subject or an attribute of it, approaches to the perfect 
truth at its base, the more does qualification become 
necessary. Radicalism must always qualify itself. 
Emerson clarifies as he qualifies, by plunging into, 
rather than "emerging from Carlyle's soul-confusing 
labyrinths of speculative radicalism. ' ' The radicalism 
that we hear much about to-day, is not Emerson's 
kind — but of thinner fiber — it qualifies itself by going 
to A "root" and often cutting other roots in the pro- 
cess; it is usually impotent as dynamite in its cause 
and sometimes as harmful to the wholesome progress 
of all causes; it is qualified by its failure. But the 
Radicalism of Emerson plunges to all roots, it becomes 
greater than itself — greater than all its formal or 
informal doctrines — too advanced and too conser- 
vative for any specific result — too catholic for all 
the churches — for the nearer it is to truth, the farther 
it is from a truth, and the more it is qualified by its 
future possibilities. 

Hence comes the difficulty — the futility of attempt- 
ing to fasten on Emerson any particular doctrine, 
philosophic, or religious theory. Emerson wrings 
the neck of any law, that would become exclusive and 
arrogant, whether a definite one of metaphysics or 
an indefinite one of mechanics. He hacks his way 
up and down, as near as he can to the absolute, the 
oneness of all nature both human and spiritual, and 
to God's benevolence. To him the ultimate of a 



EMERSON 15 

conception is its vastness, and it is probably this, 
rather than the ** blind-spots " in his expression that 
makes us incline to go with him but half-way ; and 
then stand and build dogmas. But if we can not 
follow all the way — if we do not always clearly perceive 
the whole picture, we are at least free to imagine it — 
he makes us feel that we are free to do so; perhaps 
that is the most he asks. For he is but reaching out 
through and beyond mankind, trying to see what he 
can of the infinite and its immensities — throwing 
back to us whatever he can — but ever conscious that 
he but occasionally catches a glimpse; conscious 
that if he would contemplate the greater, he must 
wrestle with the lesser, even though it dims an outline; 
that he must struggle if he would hurl back anything 
— even a broken fragment for men to examine and 
perchance in it find a germ of some part of truth; 
conscious at times, of the futility of his effort and its 
message, conscious of its vagueness, but ever hopeful 
for it, and confident that its foundation, if not its 
medium is somewhere near the eventual and "abso- 
lute good" — the divine truth underlying all life. If 
Emerson must be dubbed an optimist — then an opti- 
mist fighting pessimism, but not wallowing in it; an 
optimist, who does not study pessimism by learning 
to enjoy it, whose imagination is greater than his 
curiosity, who seeing the sign-post to Erebus, is strong 
enough to go the other way. This strength of optim- 
ism, indeed the strength we find always underlying 
his tolerance, his radicalism, his searches, prophecies, 
and revelations, is heightened and made efficient by 
"imagination-penetrative," a thing concerned not 



i6 EMERSON 

with the combining but the apprehending of things. 
A possession, akin to the power, Ruskin says, all 
great pictures have, which "depends on the penetra- 
tion of the imagination into the true nature of the 
thing represented, and on the scorn of the imagination 
for all shackles and fetters of mere external fact that 
stand in the way of its suggestiveness " — a possession 
which gives the strength of distance to his eyes, and 
the strength of muscle to his soul. With this he 
slashes down through the loam — nor would he have 
us rest there. If we would dig deep enough only to 
plant a doctrine, from one part of him, he would show 
us the quick-silver in that furrow. If we would 
creed his Compensation, there is hardly a sentence 
that could not wreck it, or could not show that the 
idea is no tenet of a philosophy, but a clear (though 
perhaps not clearly hurled on the canvas) illustration 
of universal justice — of God's perfect balances; a 
story of the analogy or better the identity of polarity 
and duality in Nature with that in morality. The 
essay is no more a doctrine than the law of gravitation 
is. If we would stop and attribute too much to genius, 
he shows us that "what is best written or done by 
genius in the world, was no one man's work, but came 
by wide social labor, when a thousand wrought like 
one, sharing the same impulse." If we would find 
in his essay on Montaigne, a biography, we are shown 
a biography of scepticism — and in reducing this to 
relation between "sensation and the morals" we are 
shown a true Montaigne — we know the man better 
perhaps by this less presentation. If we would stop 
and trust heavily on the harvest of originality, he 



EMERSON 17 

shows us that this plant — this part of the garden — is 
but a relative thing. It is dependent also on the 
richness that ages have put into the soil. "Every 
thinker is retrospective." 

Thus is Emerson always beating down through the 
crust towards the first fire of life, of death and of 
eternity. Read where you will, each sentence seems 
not to point to the next but to the undercurrent of all. 
If you would label his a religion of ethics or of morals, 
he shames you at the outset, "for ethics is but a 
reflection of a divine personality." All the religions 
this world has ever known, have been but the after- 
math of the ethics of one or another holy person; 
"as soon as character appears be sure love will"; 
"the intuition of the moral sentiment is but the 
insight of the perfection of the laws of the soul"; 
but these laws cannot be catalogued. 

If a versatilist, a modern Goethe, for instance, 
could put all of Emerson's admonitions into practice, 
a constant permanence would result, — an eternal 
short-circuit — a focus of equal X-rays. Even the 
value or success of but one precept is dependent, like 
that of a ball-game as much on the batting-eye as on 
the pitching-arm. The inactivity of permanence is 
what Emerson will not permit. He will not accept 
repose against the activity of truth. But this almost 
constant resolution of every insight towards the 
absolute may get a little on one's nerves, if one is at 
all partial- wise to the specific; one begins to ask what 
is the absolute anyway, and why try to look clear 
through the eternities and the unknowable even out 
of the other end. Emerson's fondness for flying to 



]^ EMERSON 

definite heights on indefinite wings, and the tendency 
to over-resolve, becomes unsatisfying to the impatient, 
who want results to come as they walk. Probably 
this is a reason that it is occasionally said that Emer- 
son has no vital message for the rank and file. He has 
no definite message perhaps for the literal, but his 
messages are all vital, as much, by reason of his 
indefiniteness, as in spite of it. 

There is a suggestion of irony in the thought that 
the power of his vague but compelling vitality, which 
ever sweeps us on in spite of ourselves, might not 
have been his, if it had not been for those definite 
religious doctrines of the old New England theologians. 
For almost two centuries, Emerson's mental and 
spiritual muscles had been in training for him in the 
moral and intellectual contentions, a part of the reli- 
gious exercise of his forebears. A kind of higher sen- 
sitiveness seems to culminate in him. It gives him 
a power of searching for a wider freedom of soul than 
theirs. The religion of Puritanism was based to a 
great extent, on a search for the unknowable, limited 
only by the dogma of its theology — a search for a 
path, so that the soul could better be conducted to 
the next world, while Emerson's transcendentalism 
was based on the wider search for the unknowable, 
unlimited in any way or by anything except the vast 
bounds of innate goodness, as it might be revealed 
to him in any phenomena of man, Nature, or God. 
This distinction, tenuous, in spite of the definite- 
sounding words, we like to believe has something 
peculiar to Emerson in it. We like to feel that it 
superimposes the one that makes all transcendental- 



EMERSON 19 

ism but an intellectual state, based on the theory of 
innate ideas, the reality of thought and the necessity 
of its freedom. For the philosophy of the religion, or 
whatever you will call it, of the Concord Transcen- 
dent alists is at least, more than an intellectual state 
— it has even some of the functions of the Puritan 
church — it is a spiritual state in which both soul and 
mind can better conduct themselves in this world, 
and also in the next — when the time comes. The 
search of the Puritan was rather along the path 
of logic, spiritualized, and the transcendentalist 
of reason, spiritualized — a difference in a broad 
sense between objective and subjective contem- 
plation. 

The dislike of inactivity, repose and barter, drives 
one to the indefinite subjective. Emerson's lack of 
interest in permanence may cause him to present a 
subjectivity harsher on the outside than is essential. 
His very universalism occasionally seems a limitation. 
Somewhere here may lie a weakness — real to some, 
apparent to others — a weakness in so far as his rela- 
tion becomes less vivid — to the many; insofar as he 
over-disregards the personal unit in the universal. 
If Genius is the most indebted, how much does it 
owe to those who would, but do not easily ride with 
it ? If there is a weakness here is it the fault of sub- 
stance or only of manner? If of the former, there is 
organic error somewhere, and Emerson will become 
less and less valuable to man. But this seems im- 
possible, at least to us. Without considering his 
manner or expression here (it forms the general sub- 
ject of the second section of this paper), let us ask if 



20 EMERSON 

Emerson's substance needs an affinity, a supplement 
or even a complement or a gangplank? And if so, of 
what will it be composed? 

Perhaps Emerson could not have risen to his own, 
if it had not been for his Unitarian training and asso- 
ciation with the churchmen emancipators. "Chris- 
tianity is founded on, and supposes the authorit}^ of, 
reason, and cannot therefore oppose it, without sub- 
verting itself." ... "Its office is to discern uni- 
versal truths, great and eternal principles . . . the 
highest power of the soul. ' ' Thus preached Channing. 
Who knows but this pulpit aroused the younger 
Emerson to the possibilities of intuitive reasoning 
in spiritual realms ? The influence of men like Chan- 
ning in his fight for the dignity of human nature, 
against the arbitrary revelations that Calvinism had 
strapped on the church, and for the belief in the divine 
in human reason, doubtless encouraged Emerson in 
his unshackled search for the infinite, and gave him 
premises which he later took for granted instead of 
carrying them around with him. An overinterest, 
not an underinterest in Christian ideal aims, may 
have caused him to feel that the definite paths were 
well established and doing their share, and that for 
some to reach the same infinite ends, more paths 
might be opened — paths which would in themselves, 
and in a more transcendent way, partake of the 
spiritual nature of the land in quest, — another expres- 
sion of God's Kingdom in Man. Would you have the 
indefinite paths always supplemented by the shadow 
of the definite one of a first influence? 

A characteristic of rebellion, is that its results are 



EMERSON 21 

often deepest, when the rebel breaks not from the 
worst to the greatest, but from the great to the greater. 
The youth of the rebel increases this characteristic. 
The innate rebellious spirit in young men is active 
and buoyant. They could rebel against and improve 
the millennium. This excess of enthusiasm at the 
inception of a movement, causes loss of perspective; 
a natural tendency to undervalue the great in that 
which is being taken as a base of departure. A 
''youthful sedition" of Emerson was his withdrawal 
from the communion, perhaps, the most socialistic doc- 
trine (or rather symbol) of the church — a "commune" 
above property or class. 

Picking up an essay on religion of a rather remark- 
able-minded boy — perhaps with a touch of genius — 
written when he was still in college, and so serving as 
a good illustration in point — we read — "Every think- 
ing man knows that the church is dead." But every 
thinking man knows that the church-part of the church 
always has been dead — that part seen by candle-light, 
not Christ-light. Enthusiasm is restless and hasn't 
time to see that if the church holds itself as nothing 
but the symbol of the greater light it is life itself — 
as a sj^mbol of a symbol it is dead. Many of the 
sincerest followers of Christ never heard of Him. It 
is the better influence of an institution that arouses 
in the deep and earnest souls a feeling of rebellion to 
make its aims more certain. It is their very sincerity 
that causes these seekers for a freer vision to strike 
down for more fundamental, universal, and perfect 
truths, but with such feverish enthusiasm, that they 
appear to overthink themselves — a subconscious way 



22 EMERSON 

of going Godward perhaps. The rebel of the twen- 
tieth century says: "Let us discard God, immortaHty, 
miracle — but be not untrue to ourselves." Here he, 
no doubt, in a sincere and exalted moment, confuses 
God with a name. He apparently feels that there is a 
separatable difference between natural and revealed 
religion. He mistakes the powers behind them, to 
be fundamentally separate. In the excessive keenness 
of his search, he forgets that "being true to ourselves" 
is God, that the faintest thought of immortality is 
God, and that God is "miracle." Overenthusiasm 
keeps one from letting a common experience of a 
day translate what is stirring the soul. The same 
inspiring force that arouses the young rebel, brings 
later in life a kind of "experience-afterglow," a realiza- 
tion that the soul cannot discard or limit anything. 
Would you have the youthful enthusiasm of rebellion, 
which Emerson carried beyond his youth always 
supplemented by the shadow of experience? 

Perhaps it is not the narrow minded alone that 
have no interest in anything, but in its relation to 
their personality. Is the Christian Religion, to which 
Emerson owes embryo-ideals, anything but the reve- 
lation of God in a personality — a revelation so that 
the narrow mind could become opened? But the 
tendency to over-personalize personality may also 
have suggested to Emerson the necessity for more 
universal, and impersonal paths, though they be 
indefinite of outline and vague of ascent. Could 
you journey, with equal benefit, if they were less so? 
Would you have the universal always supplemented 
by the shadow of the personal? If this view is ac- 



EMERSON 23 

cepted, and we doubt that it can be by the majority, 
Emerson's substance could well bear a supplement, 
perhaps an affinity. Something that will support 
that which some conceive he does not offer. Some- 
thing that will help answer Alton Locke's question: 
"What has Emerson for the working-man?" and 
questions of others who look for the gangplank 
before the ship comes in sight. Something that will 
supply the definite banister to the infinite, which it 
is said he keeps invisible. Something that will point 
a crossroad from "his personal" to "his nature." 
Something that may be in Thoreau or Wordsworth, 
or in another poet whose songs "breath of a new morn- 
ing of a higher life though a definite beauty in Nature " 
— or something that will show the birth of his ideal 
and hold out a background of revealed religion, as a 
perspective to his transcendent religion — a counter- 
poise in his rebellion — which we feel Channing or 
Dr. Bushnell, or other saints known and unknown 
might supply. 

If the arc must be completed — if there are those 
who would have the great, dim outlines of Emerson 
fulfilled, it is fortunate that there are Bushnells, and 
Wordsworths, to whom they may appeal — to say 
nothing of the Vedas, the Bible, or their own souls. 
But such possibilities and conceptions, the deeper 
they are received, the more they seem to reduce their 
need. Emerson's Circle may be a better whole, 
without its complement. Perhaps his "unsatiable 
demand for unity, the need to recognize one nature 
in all variety of objects," would have been impaired, 
if something should make it simpler for men to find 



24 EMERSON 

the identity they at first want in his substance. 
"Draw if thou canst the mystic Hne severing rightly 
his from thine, which is human, which divine." 
Whatever means one would use to personalize Emer- 
son's natural revelation, whether by a vision or a 
board walk, the vastness of his aims and the dignity 
of his tolerance would doubtless cause him to accept 
or at least try to accept, and use "magically as a part 
of his fortune." He would modestly say, perhaps, 
"that the world is enlarged for him, not by finding 
new objects, but by more affinities, and potencies 
than those he already has." But, indeed, is not 
enough manifestation already there? Is not the 
asking that it be made more manifest forgetting that 
"we are not strong by our power to penetrate, but 
by our relatedness ? " Will more signs create a greater 
sympathy? Is not our weak suggestion needed only 
for those content with their own hopelessness? 

Others may lead others to him, but he finds his 
problem in making "gladness hope and fortitude 
flow from his page," rather than in arranging that 
our hearts be there to receive it. The first is his 
duty — the last ours ! 



II 

A devotion to an end tends to undervalue the 
means. A power of revelation may make one more 
concerned about his perceptions of the soul's nature 
than the way of their disclosure. Emerson is more 
interested in what he perceives than in his expression 
of it. He is a creator whose intensity is consumed 



EMERSON 25 

more with the substance of his creation than with 
the manner by which he shows it to others. Like 
Petrarch he seems more a discoverer of Beauty than 
an imparter of it. But these discoveries, these devo- 
tions to aims, these struggles tow^ard the absolute, 
do not these in themselves, impart something, if 
not all, of their own unity and coherence — which is 
not received, as such, at first, nor is foremost in their 
expression. It must be remembered that "truth" 
was what Emerson was after — not strength of out- 
line, or even beauty except in so far as they might 
reveal themselves, naturally, in his explorations to- 
wards the infinite. To think hard and deeply and 
to say what is thought, regardless of consequences, may 
produce a first impression, either of great translu- 
cence, or of great muddiness, but in the latter there 
may be hidden possibilities. Some accuse Brahms' 
orchestration of being muddy. This may be a good 
name for a first impression of it. But if it should 
seem less so, he might not be saying what he thought. 
The mud may be a form of sincerity which demands 
that the heart be translated, rather than handed 
around through the pit. A clearer scoring might 
have lowered the thought. Carlyle told Emerson 
that some of his paragraphs didn't cohere. Emerson 
wrote by sentences or phrases, rather than by logical 
sequence. His underlying plan of work seems based 
on the large unity of a series of particular aspects of a 
subject, rather than on the continuity of its expres- 
sion. As thoughts surge to his mind, he fills the 
heavens with them, crowds them in, if necessary, but 
seldom arranges them, along the ground first. Among 



26 EMERSON 

class-room excuses for Emerson's imperfect coherence 
and lack of unity, is one that remembers that his 
essays were made from lecture notes. His habit, 
often in lecturing, was to compile his ideas as they 
came to him on a general subject, in scattered notes, 
and when on the platform, to trust to the mood 
of the occasion, to assemble them. This seems a 
specious explanation, though true to fact. Vague- 
ness, is at times, an indication of nearness to a per- 
fect truth. The definite glory of Bernard of Cluny's 
Celestial City, is more beautiful that true — probably. 
Orderly reason does not always have to be a visible 
part of all great things. Logic may possibly require 
that unity means something ascending in self-evident 
relation to the parts and to the whole, with no ellipsis 
in the ascent. But reason may permit, even demand 
an ellipsis, and genius may not need the self-evident 
part. In fact, these parts may be the "blind-spots" 
in the progress of unity. They may be filled with 
little but repetition, "Nature loves analogy and 
hates repetition." Botany reveals evolution not 
permanence. An apparent confusion if lived with 
long enough may become orderly. Emerson was not 
writing for lazy minds, though one of the keenest of 
his academic friends said that, he (Emerson) could 
not explain many of his own pages. But why should 
he! — he explained them when he discovered them — 
the moment before he spoke or wrote them. A rare 
experience of a moment at daybreak, when something 
in nature seems to reveal all consciousness, cannot 
be explained at noon. Yet it is a part of the day's 
unity. At evening, nature is absorbed by another 



EMERSON 27 

experience. She dislikes to explain as much as to 
repeat. It is conceivable, that what is unified form 
to the author, or composer, may of necessity be form- 
less to his audience. A home-run will cause more 
unity in the grand stand than in the season's batting 
average. If a composer once starts to compromise, his 
work will begin to drag on him. Before the end is 
reached, his inspiration has all gone up in sounds 
pleasing to his audience, ugly to him — sacrificed for 
the first acoustic — an opaque clarity, a picture painted 
for its hanging. Easy unity, like easy virtue, is 
easier to describe, when judged from its lapses than 
from its constancy. When the infidel admits God is 
great, he means only: "I am lazy — it is easier to talk 
than live." Ruskin also says: "Suppose I like the 
finite curves best, who shall say I'm right or wrong? 
No one. It is simply a question of experience." 
You may not be able to experience a symphony, even 
after twenty performances. Initial coherence to-day 
may be dullness to-morrow probably because formal 
or outward unity depends so much on repetition, 
sequences, antitheses, paragraphs with inductions 
and summaries. Macaulay had that kind of unity. 
Can you read him to-day? Emerson rather goes 
out and shouts : " I'm thinking of the sun's glory to-day 
and I'll let his light shine through me. I'll say any 
damn thing that this inspires me with. Perhaps there 
are flashes of light, still in cipher, kept there by unity, 
the code of which the world has not yet discovered. 
The unity of one sentence inspires the unity of the 
whole — though its physique is as ragged as the 
Dolomites. 



28 EMERSON 

Intense lights — vague shadows — great pillars in 
a horizon are difficult things to nail signboards to. 
Emerson's outward-inward qualities make him hard 
to classify, but easy for some. There are many who 
like to say that he — even all the Concord men — are 
intellectuals. Perhaps — but intellectuals who wear 
their brains nearer the heart than some of their 
critics. It is as dangerous to determine a character- 
istic by manner as by mood. Emerson is a pure intel- 
lectual to those who prefer to take him as literally 
as they can. There are reformers, and in "the form" 
lies their interest, who prefer to stand on the plain, 
and then insist they see from the summit. Indolent 
legs supply the strength of eye for their inspiration. 
The intellect is never a whole. It is where the soul 
finds things. It is often the only track to the over- 
values. It appears a whole — but never becomes one 
even in the stock exchange, or the convent, or the 
laboratory. In the cleverest criminal, it is but a way 
to a low ideal. It can never discard the other part 
of its duality — the soul or the void where the soul 
ought to be. So why classify a quality always so 
relative that it is more an agency than substance; 
a quality that disappears when classified. "The life 
of the All must stream through us to make the man 
and the moment great." A sailor with a precious 
cargo doesn't analyze the water. 

Because Emerson had generations of Calvinistic 
sermons in his blood, some cataloguers, would localize 
or provincialize him, with the sternness of the old 
Puritan mind. They make him that, hold him there. 
They lean heavily on what they find of the above 



EMERSON 29 

influence in him. They won't follow the rivers in his 
thought and the play of his soul. And their cousin 
cataloguers put him in another pigeon-hole. They 
label him "ascetic." They translate his outward 
serenity into an impression of severity. But truth 
keeps one from being hysterical. Is a demagogue a 
friend of the people because he will lie to them to 
make them cry and raise false hopes? A search for 
perfect truths throws out a beauty more spiritual 
than sensuous. A sombre dignity of style is often 
confused by under-imagination and by surface-senti- 
ment, with austerity. If Emerson's manner is not 
always beautiful in accordance with accepted stand- 
ards, why not accept a few other standards? He is 
an ascetic, in that he refuses to compromise content 
with manner. But a real ascetic is an extremist who 
has but one height. Thus may come the confusion, 
of one who says that Emerson carries him high, but 
then leaves him always at that height — no higher — 
a confusion, mistaking a latent exultation for an 
ascetic reserve. The rules of Thorough Bass can be 
applied to his scale of flight no more than they can to 
the planetary system. Jadassohn, if Emerson were 
literally a composer, could no more analyze his 
harmony than a guide-to-Boston could. A micro- 
scope might show that he uses chords of the 9th, i ith, 
or the 99th, but a lens far different tells us they are 
used with different aims from those of Debussy. 
Emerson is definite in that his art is based on some- 
thing stronger than the amusing or at its best the 
beguiling of a few mortals. If he uses a sensuous 
chord, it is not for sensual ears. His harmonies may 



30 EMERSON 

float, if the wind blows in that direction, through a 
voluptuous atmosphere, but he has not Debussy's 
fondness for trying to blow a sensuous atmosphere 
from his own voluptuous cheeks. And so he is an 
ascetic! There is a distance between jowl and soul 
— and it is not measured by the fraction of an inch 
between Concord and Paris. On the other hand, if 
one thinks that his harmony contains no dramatic 
chords, because no theatrical sound is heard, let him 
listen to the finale of "Success," or of "Spiritual 
Laws," or to some of the poems, "Brahma" or 
"Sursum Corda," for example. Of a truth his Codas 
often seem to crystallize in a dramatic, though serene 
and sustained way, the truths of his subject — they 
become more active and intense, but quieter and 
deeper. 

Then there comes along another set of cataloguers. 
The}^ put him down as a "classist," or a romanticist, 
or an eclectic. Because a prophet is a child of roman- 
ticism — because revelation is classic, because eclecti- 
cism quotes from eclectic Hindu Philosophy, a more 
sympathetic cataloguer may say, that Emerson in- 
spires courage of the quieter kind and delight of the 
higher kind. 

The same well-bound school teacher who told the 
boys that Thoreau was a naturalist because he didn't 
like to work, puts down Emerson as a "classic," and 
Hawthorne as a "romantic." A loud voice made this 
doubly true and sure to be on the examination paper. 
But this teacher of "truth and dogma" apparently 
forgot that there is no such thing as "classicism or 
romanticism." One has but to go to the various 



EMERSON 31 

definitions of these to know that. If you go to a 
classic definition you know what a true classic is, 
and similarly a ''true romantic." But if you go to 
both, you have an algebraic formula, x = x, a cancella- 
tion, an apercu, and hence satisfying ; if you go to all 
definitions you have another formula x > x, a destruc- 
tion, another apercu, and hence satisfying. Professor 
Beers goes to the dictionary (you wouldn't think a 
college professor would be as reckless as that). And 
so he can say that "romantic" is "pertaining to the 
style of the Christian and popular literature of the 
Middle Ages," — a Roman Catholic mode of salva- 
tion (not this definition but having a definition). 
And so Prof. B. can say that Walter Scott is a 
romanticist (and Billy Phelps a classic — sometimes). 
But for our part Dick Croker is a classic and Job a 
romanticist. Another professor. Babbitt by name, 
links up Romanticism with Rousseau, and charges 
against it many of man's troubles. He somehow 
likes to mix it up with sin. He throws saucers 
at it, but in a scholarly, interesting, sincere, and 
accurate way. He uncovers a deformed foot, 
gives it a name, from which we are allowed to infer 
that the covered foot is healthy and named classi- 
cism. But no Christian Scientist can prove that 
Christ never had a stomach ache. The Architecture 
of Humanism ^ tells us that ' ' romanticism consists of 
... a poetic sensibility towards the remote, as such." 
But is Plato a classic or towards the remote? Is 
Classicism a poor relation of time — not of man? Is 
a thing classic or romantic because it is or is not 
^ Geoffrey Scott (Constable & Co.) 



32 EMERSON 

passed by that biologic — that indescribable stream- 
of-change going on in all life? Let us settle the 
point for ''good," and say that a thing is classic if it 
is thought of in terms of the past and romantic if 
thought of in terms of the future — and a thing thought 
of in terms of the present is — well, that is impossible! 
Hence, we allow ourselves to say, that Emerson is 
neither a classic or romantic but both — and both not 
only at different times in one essay, but at the same 
time in one sentence — in one word. And must we 
admit it, so is everyone. If you don't believe it, 
there must be some true definition you haven't seen. 
Chopin shows a few things that Bach forgot — but 
he is not eclectic, they say. Brahms shows many 
things that Bach did remember, so he is an eclectic, 
they say. Leoncavallo writes pretty verses and 
Palestrina is a priest, and Confucius inspires Scriabin. 
A choice is freedom. Natural selection is but one of 
Nature's tunes. "All melodious poets shall be hoarse 
as street ballads, when once the penetrating keynote 
of nature and spirit is sounded — the earth-beat, 
sea-beat, heart-beat, which make the tune to which 
the sun rolls, and the globule of blood and the sap of 
the trees." 

An intuitive sense of values, tends to make Emerson 
use social, political, and even economic phenomena, 
as means of expression, as the accidental notes in his 
scale — rather than as ends, even lesser ends. In 
the realization that they are essential parts of the 
greater values, he does not confuse them with each 
other. He remains undisturbed except in rare 
instances, when the lower parts invade and seek to 



EMERSON 33 

displace the higher. He was not afraid to say that 
"there are laws which should not be too well obeyed." 
To him, slavery was not a social or a political or an 
economic question, nor even one of morals or of 
ethics, but one of universal spiritual freedom only. 
It mattered little what party, or what platform, or 
what law of commerce governed men. Was man 
governing himself? Social error and virtue were 
but relative. 

This habit of not being hindered by using, but still 
going beyond the great truths of living, to the greater 
truths of life gave force to his influence over the 
materialists. Thus he seems to us more a regenerator 
than a reformer — more an interpreter of life's reflexes 
than of life's facts, perhaps. Here he appears greater 
than Voltaire or Rousseau and helped, perhaps, by 
the centrality of his conceptions, he could arouse the 
deeper spiritual and moral emotions, without causing 
his listeners to distort their physical ones. To prove 
that mind is over matter, he doesn't place matter 
over mind. He is not like the man who, because he 
couldn't afford both, gave up metaphysics for an 
automobile, and when he ran over a man blamed 
metaphysics. He would not have us get over-excited 
about physical disturbance but have it accepted as 
a part of any progress in culture, moral, spiritual or 
aesthetic. If a poet retires to the mountain-side, to 
avoid the vulgar unculture of men, and their physical 
disturbance, so that he may better catch a nobler 
theme for his symphony, Emerson tells him that 
"man's culture can spare nothing, wants all material, 
converts all impediments into instruments, all enemies 

3 



34 EMERSON 

into power." The latest product of man's culture — 
the aeroplane, then sails o'er the mountain and 
instead of an inspiration — a spray of tobacco-juice 
falls on the poet. "Calm yourself, Poet!" says 
Emei*son, "culture will convert furies into muses 
and hells into benefit. This wouldn't have befallen 
you if it hadn't been for the latest transcendent pro- 
duct of the genius of culture" (we won't say what 
kind), a consummation of the dreams of poets, from 
David to Tennyson. Material progress is but a 
means of expression. Realize that man's coarseness 
has its future and will also be refined in the gradual 
uprise. Turning the world upside down may be one 
of its lesser incidents. It is the cause, seldom the 
effect that interests Emerson. He can help the cause 
— the effect must help itself. He might have said 
to those who talk knowingly about the cause of war 
— or of the last war, and who would trace it down 
through long vistas of cosmic, political, moral evolu- 
tion and what not — he might say that the cause of 
it was as simple as that of any dog-fight — the "hog- 
mind" of the minority against the universal mind, 
the majority. The un-courage of the former fears 
to believe in the innate goodness of mankind. The 
cause is always the same, the effect different by 
chance; it is as easy for a hog, even a stupid one, 
to step on a box of matches under a tenement with 
a thousand souls, as under an empty bird-house. 
The many kindly burn up for the few ; for the minor- 
ity is selfish and the majority generous. The minority 
has ruled the world for physical reasons. The 
physical reasons are being removed by this "convert- 



EMERSON 35 

ing culture." Webster will not much longer have to 
grope for the mind of his constituency. The majority 
— the people — will need no intermediary. Govern- 
ments will pass from the representative to the direct. 
The hog-mind is the principal thing that is making 
this transition slow. The biggest prop to the hog- 
mind is pride — pride in property and the power prop- 
erty gives. Ruskin backs this up — "it is at the 
bottom of all great mistakes; other passions do 
occasional good, but whenever pride puts in its word 
. . . it is all over with the artist." The hog-mind 
and its handmaidens in disorder, superficial bright- 
ness, fundamental dullness, then cowardice and sus- 
picion — all a part of the minority (the non-people) 
the antithesis of everything called soul, spirit, Chris- 
tianity, truth, freedom — will give way more and more 
to the great primal truths — that there is more good 
than evil, that God is on the side of the majority 
(the people) — that he is not enthusiastic about the 
minority (the non-people) — that he has made men 
greater than man, that he has made the universal 
mind and the over-soul greater and a part of the 
individual mind and soul — that he has made the 
Divine a part of all. 

Again, if a picture in economics is before him, 
Emerson plunges down to the things that are because 
they are better than they are. If there is a row, which 
there usually is, between the ebb and flood tide, in 
the material ocean — for example, between the theory 
of the present order of competition, and of attractive 
and associated labor, he would sympathize with 
Ricardo, perhaps, that labor is the measure of value, 



36 EMERSON 

but "embrace, as do generous minds, the proposition 
of labor shared by all." He would go deeper than 
political economics, strain out the self-factor from 
both theories, and make the measure of each pretty 
much the same, so that the natural (the majority) 
would win, but not to the disadvantage of the minor- 
ity (the artificial) because this has disappeared — it 
is of the majority. John Stuart Mill's political 
economy is losing value because it was written by a 
mind more "a banker's" than a "poet's." The poet 
knows that there is no such thing as the perpetual law 
of supply and demand, perhaps not of demand and 
supply — or of the wage-fund, or price-level, or incre- 
ments earned or unearned; and that the existence of 
personal or public property may not prove the exist- 
ence of God. 

Emerson seems to use the great definite inter- 
ests of humanity to express the greater, indefinite, 
spiritual values — to fulfill what he can in his realms 
of revelation. Thus, it seems that so close a relation 
exists between his content and expression, his sub- 
stance and manner, that if he were more definite in 
the latter he would lose power in the former, — perhaps 
some of those occasional flashes would have been un- 
expressed — flashes that have gone down through the 
world and will flame on through the ages — flashes that 
approach as near the Divine as Beethoven in his most 
inspired moments — flashes of transcendent beauty, 
of such universal import, that they may bring, of a' 
sudden, some intimate personal experience, and pro- 
duce the same indescribable effect that comes in rare 
instances, to men, from some common sensation. In 



EMERSON 37 

the early morning of a Memorial Day, a boy is awak- 
ened by martial music — a village band is marching 
down the street, and as the strains of Reeves' majestic 
Seventh Regiment March come nearer and nearer, 
he seems of a sudden translated — a moment of vivid 
power comes, a consciousness of material nobility, 
an exultant something gleaming with the possibilities 
of this life, an assurance that nothing is impossible, 
and that the whole world lies at his feet. But as the 
band turns the corner, at the soldiers' monument, 
and the march steps of the Grand Army become fainter 
and fainter, the boy's vision slowly vanishes — his 
"world" becomes less and less probable — but the 
experience ever lies within him in its reality. Later 
in life, the same boy hears the Sabbath morning bell 
ringing out from the white steeple at the "Center," 
and as it draws him to it, through the autumn fields 
of sumach and asters, a Gospel hymn of simple 
devotion comes out to him — "There's a wideness in 
God's mercy" — an instant suggestion of that Memo- 
rial Day morning comes — but the moment is of deeper 
import — there is no personal exultation — no intimate 
world vision — no magnified personal hope — and in 
their place a profound sense of a spiritual truth, — a sin 
within reach of forgiveness — and as the hymn voices die 
away, there lies at his feet — not the world, but the 
figure of the Saviour — he sees an unfathomable cour- 
age, an immortality for the lowest, the vastness in 
humility, the kindness of the human heart, man's 
noblest strength, and he knows that God is nothing 
— nothing but love! Whence cometh the wonder of 
a moment? From sources we know not. But we 



38 EMERSON 

do know that from obscurity, and from this higher 
Orpheus come measures of sphere melodies^ flowing 
in wild, native tones, ravaging the souls of men, flow- 
ing now with thousand-fold accompaniments and 
rich symphonies through all our hearts; modulating 
and divinely leading them. 

Ill 

What is character? In how far does it sustain the 
soul or the soul it ? Is it a part of the soul ? And then 
— what is the soul? Plato knows but cannot tell 
us. Every new-born man knows, but no one tells 
us. "Nature will not be disposed of easily. No 
power of genius has ever yet had the smallest success 
in explaining existence. The perfect enigma remains. ' ' 
As every blind man sees the sun, so character may be 
the part of the soul we, the blind, can see, and then 
have the right to imagine that the soul is each man's 
share of God, and character the muscle which tries 
to reveal its mysteries — a kind of its first visible 
radiance — the right to know that it is the voice which 
is always calling the pragmatist a fool. 

At any rate, it can be said that Emerson's character 
has much to do with his power upon us. Men who 
have known nothing of his life, have borne witness 
to this. It is directly at the root of his substance, 
and affects his manner only indirectly. It gives the 
sincerity to the constant spiritual hopefulness we 
are always conscious of, and which carries with it 
often, even when the expression is somber, a note 

* Paraphrased from a passage in Sartor Resartus. 



EMERSON 39 

of exultation in the victories of "the innate virtues" 
of man. And it is this, perhaps, that makes us feel 
his courage — not a self-courage, but a sympathetic 
one — courageous even to tenderness. It is the open 
courage of a kind heart, of not forcing opinions — a 
thing much needed when the cowardly, underhanded 
courage of the fanatic would force opinion. It is the 
courage of believing in freedom, per se, rather than 
of trying to force everyone to see that you believe in it 
— the courage of the willingness to be reformed, 
rather than of reforming — the courage teaching that 
sacrifice is bravery, and force, fear. The courage of 
righteous indignation, of stammering eloquence, of 
spiritual insight, a courage ever contracting or unfold- 
ing a philosophy as it grows — a courage that would 
make the impossible possible. Oliver Wendell Holmes 
says that Emerson attempted the impossible in the 
Over- Soul — "an overflow of spiritual imagination." 
But he (Emerson) accomplished the impossible in 
attempting it, and still leaving it impossible. A 
courageous struggle to satisfy, as Thoreau saj^s, 
"Hunger rather than the palate" — the hunger of a 
lifetime sometimes by one meal. His essay on the 
Pre-Soul (which he did not write) treats of that part 
of the over-soul's influence on unborn ages, and 
attempts the impossible only when it stops attempt- 
ing it. 

Like all courageous souls, the higher Emerson soars, 
the more lowly he becomes. "Do you think the 
porter and the cook have no experiences, no wonders 
for you? Everyone knows as much as the Savant." 
To some, the way to be humble is to admonish the 



40 EMERSON 

humble, not learn from them. Carlyle would have 
Emerson teach by more definite signs, rather than 
interpret his revelations, or shall we say preach? 
Admitting all the inspiration and help that Sartor 
Resartus has given in spite of its vaudeville and 
tragic stages, to many young men getting under way 
in the life of tailor or king, we believe it can be said 
(but very broadly said) that Emerson, either in the 
first or second series of essays, taken as a whole, gives, 
it seems to us, greater inspiration, partly because 
his manner is less didactic, less personally suggestive, 
perhaps less clearly or obviously human than Carlyle's. 
How direct this inspiration is a matter of personal 
viewpoint, temperament, perhaps inheritance. Au- 
gustine Birrell says he does not feel it — and he seems 
not to even indirectly. Apparently "a non-sequa- 
cious author" can't inspire him, for Emerson, seems 
to him a "little thin and vague." Is Emerson or the 
English climate to blame for this^ He, Birrell, says 
a really great author dissipates all fears as to his 
staying-power. (Though fears for our staying-power, 
not Emerson's, is what we would like dissipated.) 
Besides, around a really great author, there are no 
fears to dissipate. "A wise author never allows his 
reader's mind to be at large," but Emerson is not a 
wise author. His essay on Prudence has nothing to 
do with prudence, for to be wise and prudent he must 
put explanation first, and let his substance dissolve 
because of it. "How carefully," says Birrell again, 
"a really great author like Dr. Newman, or M. 
Renan, explains to you what he is going to do, and 
how he is going to do it." Personally we like the 



EMERSON 41 

chance of having a hand in the "explaining." We 
prefer to look at flowers, but not through a botany, 
for it seems that if we look at them alone, we see a 
beauty of Nature's poetry, a direct gift from the 
Divine, and if we look at botany alone, we see the 
beauty of Nature's intellect, a direct gift of the Divine 
— if we look at both together, we see nothing. 

Thus it seems that Carlyle and Birrell would have 
it that courage and humility have something to do 
with "explanation" — and that it is not "a respect 
for all" — a faith in the power of "innate virtue" to 
perceive by "relativeness rather than penetration" — 
that causes Emerson to withhold explanation to a 
greater degree than many writers. Carlyle asks 
for more utility, and Birrell for more inspiration. 
But we like to believe that it is the height of 
Emerson's character, evidenced especially in his 
courage and humility that shades its quality, rather 
than that its virtue is less — that it is his height that 
will make him more and more valuable and more 
and more within the reach of all — whether it be by 
utilit}^ inspiration, or other needs of the human soul. 

Cannot some of the most valuable kinds of utility 
and inspiration come from humility in its highest and 
purest forms ? For is not the truest kind of humility 
a kind of glorified or transcendent democracy — the 
practicing it rather than the talking it — the not- 
wanting to level all finite things, but the being willing 
to be leveled towards the infinite? Until humility 
produces that frame of mind and spirit in the artist 
can his audience gain the greatest kind of utility and 
inspiration, which might be quite invisible at first? 



42 EMERSON 

Emerson realizes the value of ''the many,'' — that the 
law of averages has a divine source. He recognizes 
the various life-values i7i reality — not by reason of 
their closeness or remoteness, but because he sym- 
pathizes with men who live them, and the majority 
do. "The private store of reason is not great — would 
that there were a pubHc store for man," cries Pascal, 
but there is, says Emerson, it is the universal mind, 
an institution congenital with the common or over- 
soul. Pascal is discouraged, for he lets himself be in- 
fluenced by surface political and religious history which 
shows the struggle of the group, led by an individual, 
rather than that of the individual led by himself — a 
struggle as much privately caused as privately led. 
The main-path of all social progress has been spiritual 
rather than intellectual in character, but the many 
by-paths of individual-materialism, though never oblit- 
erating the highway, have dimmed its outlines and 
caused travelers to confuse the colors along the road. 
A more natural way of freeing the congestion in the 
benefits of material progress will make it less difficult 
for the majority to recognize the true relation be- 
tween the important spiritual and religious values 
and the less important intellectual and economic 
values. As the action of the intellect and univer- 
sal mind becomes more and more identical, the 
clearer will the relation of all values become. But for 
physical reasons, the group has had to depend upon 
the individual as leaders, and the leaders with few 
exceptions restrained the universal mind — they 
trusted to the "private store," but now, thanks to 
the lessons of evolution, which Nature has been teach- 



EMERSON 43 

ing men since and before the days of Socrates, the 
public store of reason is gradually taking the place 
of the once-needed leader. From the Chaldean 
tablet to the wireless message this public store has 
been wonderfully opened. The results of these les- 
sons, the possibilities they are offering for ever co- 
ordinating the mind of humanity, the culmination of 
this age-instruction, are seen to-day in many ways. 
Labor Federation, Suffrage Extension, are two in- 
stances that come to mind among the many. In these 
manifestations, by reason of tradition, or the bad- 
habit part of tradition, the hog-mind of the few (the 
minority), comes in play. The possessors of this 
are called leaders, but even these "thick-skins" are 
beginning to see that the movement is the leader, and 
that they are only clerks. Broadly speaking, the 
effects evidenced in the political side of history have 
so much of the physical because the causes have been 
so much of the physical. As a result the leaders for 
the most part have been under-average men, with 
skins thick, wits slick, and hands quick with under- 
values, otherwise they would not have become leaders. 
But the day of leaders, as such, is gradually closing — 
the people are beginning to lead themselves — the 
public store of reason is slowly being opened — the 
common universal mind and the common over-soul 
is slowly but inevitabh^ coming into its own. "Let 
a man believe in God, not in names and places and 
persons. Let the great soul incarnated in some poor 
. . . sad and simple Joan, go out to service and sweep 
chimneys and scrub floors ... its effulgent day 
beams cannot be muffled ..." and then "to sweep 



44 EMERSON 

and scrub will instantly appear supreme and beauti- 
ful actions . . . and all people will get brooms and 
mops." Perhaps, if all of Emerson — his works and 
his life — were to be swept away, and nothing of him 
but the record of the following incident remained to 
men — the influence of his soul would still be great. 
A working woman after coming from one of his lec- 
tures said: "I love to go to hear Emerson, not be- 
cause I understand him, but because he looks as though 
he thought everybody was as good as he was." Is 
it not the courage — the spiritual hopefulness in his 
humility that makes this story possible and true? 
Is it not this trait in his character that sets him above 
all creeds — that gives him inspired belief in the common 
mind and soul? Is it not this courageous universal- 
ism that gives conviction to his prophecy and that 
makes his S3^mphonies of revelation begin and end 
with nothing but the strength and beauty of innate 
goodness in man, in Nature and in God, the greatest 
and most inspiring theme of Concord Transcendental 
Philosophy, as we hear it. 

And it is from such a world-compelling theme 
and from such vantage ground, that Emerson rises to 
almost perfect freedom of action, of thought and of 
soul, in any direction and to any height. A vantage 
ground, somewhat vaster than Schelling's conception 
of transcendental philosophy — "a philosophy of 
Nature become subjective." In Concord it includes 
the objective and becomes subjective to nothing but 
freedom and the absolute law. It is this underlying 
courage of the purest humility that gives Emerson 
that outward aspect of serenity which is felt to so 



EMERSON 45 

great an extent in much of his work, especially in his 
codas and perorations. And within this poised 
strength, we are conscious of that "original authentic 
fire" which Emerson missed in Shelley — we are con- 
scious of something that is not dispassionate, something 
that is at times almost turbulent — a kind of furious 
calm lying deeply in the conviction of the eventual 
triumph of the soul and its union with God! 

Let us place the transcendent Emerson where he, 
himself, places Milton, in Wordsworth's apostrophe: 
"Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free, so didst 
thou travel on life's common way in cheerful 
Godliness." 

The Godliness of spiritual courage and hopefulness 
— these fathers of faith rise to a glorified peace in the 
depth of his greater perorations. There is an " oracle ' ' 
at the beginning of the Fifth Symphony — in those 
four notes lies one of Beethoven's greatest messages. 
We would place its translation above the relentless- 
ness of fate knocking at the door, above the greater 
human-message of destiny, and strive to bring it 
towards the spiritual message of Emerson's revela- 
tions — even to the "common heart" of Concord 
— the Soul of humanity knocking at the door of the 
Divine mysteries, radiant in the faith that it will be 
opened — and the human become the Divine ! 



Ill 

HAWTHORNE 

The substance of Hawthorne is so dripping wet 
with the supernatural, the phantasmal, the mystical 
— so surcharged with adventures, from the deeper 
picturesque to the illusive fantastic, one unconsciously 
finds oneself thinking of him as a poet of greater 
imaginative impulse than Emerson or Thoreau. He 
was not a greater poet possibly than they — but 
a greater artist. Not only the character of his 
substance, but the care in his manner throws his 
workmanship, in contrast to theirs, into a kind of 
bas-relief. Like Poe he quite naturally and uncon- 
sciously reaches out over his subject to his reader. His 
mesmerism seeks to mesmerize us — beyond Zenobia's 
sister. But he is too great an artist to show his 
hand "in getting his audience," as Poe and Tschai- 
kowsky occasionally do. His intellectual muscles 
are too strong to let him become over-influenced, 
as Ravel and Stravinsky seem to be by the morbidly 
fascinating — a kind of false beauty obtained by 
artistic monotony. However, we cannot but feel 
that he would weave his spell over us — as would the 
Grimms and ^sop. We feel as much under magic 
as the " Enchanted Frog." This is part of the artist's 

46 



HAWTHORNE 47 

business. The effect is a part of his art-effort in its 
inception. Emerson's substance and even his manner 
has little to do with a designed effect — his thunder- 
bolts or delicate fragments are flashed out regardless 
— they may knock us down or just spatter us — it 
matters little to him — but Hawthorne is more con- 
siderate; that is, he is more artistic, as men say. 

Hawthorne may be more noticeably indigenous 
or may have more local color, perhaps more national 
color than his Concord contemporaries. But the 
work of anyone who is somewhat more interested in 
psychology than in transcendental philosophy, will 
weave itself around individuals and their personalities. 
If the same anyone happens to live in Salem, his 
work is likely to be colored by the Salem wharves 
and Salem witches. If the same anyone happens to 
live in the ''Old Manse" near the Concord Battle 
Bridge, he is likely "of a rainy day to betake himself 
to the huge garret," the secrets of which he wonders 
at, "but is too reverent of their dust and cobwebs to 
disturb." He is likely to "bow below the shriveled 
canvas of an old (Puritan) clergyman in wig and gown 
— the parish priest of a century ago — a friend of 
Whitefield." He is likely to come under the spell 
of this reverend Ghost who haunts the "Manse" 
and as it rains and darkens and the sky glooms through 
the dusty attic windows, he is likely "to muse deeply 
and wonderingly upon the humiliating fact that the 
works of man's intellect decay like those of his hands" 
. . . "that thought grows moldy," and as the garret 
is in Massachusetts, the "thought" and the "mold" 
are likely to be quite native. When the same anyone 



48 HAWTHORNE 

puts his poetry into novels rather than essays, he is 
likely to have more to say about the life around him — 
about the inherited mystery of the town — than a 
poet of philosophy is. 

In Hawthorne's usual vicinity, the atmosphere was 
charged with the somber errors and romance of eight- 
eenth century New England, — ascetic or noble New 
England as you like. A novel, of necessity, nails an 
art-effort down to some definite part or parts of the 
earth's surface — the novelist's wagon can't always 
be hitched to a star. To say that Hawthorne was 
more deeply interested than some of the other Con- 
cord writers — Emerson, for example — in the idealism 
peculiar to his native land (in so far as such idealism 
of a country can be conceived of as separate from the 
political) would be as unreasoning as to hold that he 
was more interested in social progress than Thoreau, 
because he was in the consular service and Thoreau 
was in no one's service — or that the War Governor of 
Massachusetts was a greater patriot than Wendell 
Phillips, who was ashamed of all political parties. 
Hawthorne's art was true and typically American 
— as is the art of all men living in America who believe 
in freedom of thought and who live wholesome lives 
to prove it, whatever their means of expression. 

Any comprehensive conception of Hawthorne, 
either in words or music, must have for its basic theme 
something that has to do with the influence of sin 
upon the conscience — something more than the Puri- 
tan conscience, but something which is permeated 
by it. In this relation he is wont to use what Hazlitt 
calls the "moral power of imagination." Hawthorne 



HAWTHORNE 49 

would try to spiritualize a guilty conscience. He 
would sing of the relentlessness of guilt, the inherit- 
ance of guilt, the shadow of guilt darkening innocent 
posterity. All of its sins and morbid horrors, its 
specters, its phantasmas, and even its hellish hope- 
lessness play around his pages, and vanishing between 
the lines are the less guilty Elves of the Concord 
Elms, which Thoreau and Old Man Alcott may have 
felt, but knew not as intimately as Hawthorne. There 
is often a pervading melancholy about Hawthorne, as 
Faguet says of de Musset ''without posture, without 
noise but penetrating." There is at times the mysti- 
cism and serenity of the ocean, which Jules Michelet 
sees in "its horizon rather than in its waters." There 
is a sensitiveness to supernatural sound waves. 
Hawthorne feels the mysteries and tries to paint 
them rather than explain them — and here, some may 
say that he is wiser in a more practical way and so 
more artistic than Emerson. Perhaps so, but no 
greater in the deeper ranges and profound mysteries 
of the interrelated worlds of human and spiritual life. 
This fundamental part of Hawthorne is not at- 
tempted in our music (the 26. movement of the series) 
which is but an "extended fragment" trying to sug- 
gest some of his wilder, fantastical adventures into 
the half -childlike, half -fairy like phantasmal realms. 
It may have something to do with the children's 
excitement on that "frosty Berkshire morning, and 
the frost imagery on the enchanted hall window" or 
something to do with "Feathertop," the "Scarecrow," 
and his "Looking Glass" and the little demons danc- 
ing around his pipe bowl; or something to do with the 



50 HAWTHORNE 

old hymn tune that haunts the church and sings 
only to those in the churchyard, to protect them 
from secular noises, as when the circus parade comes 
down Main Street; or something to do with the concert 
at the Stamford camp meeting, or the "Slave's 
Shuffle"; or something to do with the Concord he- 
nymph, or the "Seven Vagabonds," or "Circe's 
Palace," or something else in the wonderbook — not 
something that happens, but the way something 
happens; or something to do with the "Celestial 
Railroad," or "Phoebe's Garden," or something per- 
sonal, which tries to be "national" suddenly at 
twilight, and universal suddenly at midnight; or 
something about the ghost of a man who never lived, 
or about something that never will happen, or 
something else that is not. 



IV 

"THE ALCOTTS" 

If the dictagraph had been perfected in Bronson 
Alcott's time, he might now be a great writer. As it 
is, he goes down as Concord's greatest talker. "Great 
expecter," says Thoreau; "great feller," says Sam 
Staples, "for talkin' big . . . but his daughters is 
the gals though — always doin' somethin'." Old Man 
Alcott, however, was usually " doin' somethin'" 
within. An internal grandiloquence made him melo- 
dious without; an exuberant, irrepressible, visionary 
absorbed with philosophy as such; to him it was a 
kind of transcendental business, the profits of which 
supported his inner man rather than his family. Ap- 
parently his deep interest in spiritual physics, rather 
than metaphysics, gave a kind of hypnotic mellifluous 
effect to his voice when he sang his oracles ; a manner 
something of a cross between an inside pompous 
self-assertion and an outside serious benevolence. 
But he was sincere and kindly intentioned in his 
eagerness to extend what he could of the better influ- 
ence of the philosophic world as he saw it. In fact, 
there is a strong didactic streak in both father and 
daughter. Louisa May seldom misses a chance to 
bring out the moral of a homely virtue. The power 

51 



52 "THE ALCOTTS" 

of repetition was to them a natural means of illustra- 
tion. It is said that the elder Alcott, while teaching 
school, would frequently whip himself when the 
scholars misbehaved, to show that the Divine Teacher 
— God — was pained when his children of the earth 
were bad. Quite often the boy next to the bad boy 
was punished, to show how sin involved the guiltless. 
And Miss Alcott is fond of working her story around, 
so that she can better rub in a moral precept — and 
the moral sometimes browbeats the story. But with 
all the elder Alcott's vehement, impracticable, vision- 
ary qualities, there was a sturdiness and a courage — 
at least, we like to think so. A Yankee boy who 
would cheerfully travel in those days, when distances 
were long and unmotored, as far from Connecticut 
as the Carolinas, earning his way by peddling, lay- 
ing down his pack to teach school when opportunity 
offered, must possess a basic sturdiness. This was 
apparently not very evident when he got to preaching 
his idealism. An incident in Alcott's life helps con- 
firm a theory — not a popular one — that men accus- 
tomed to wander around in the visionary unknown 
are the quickest and strongest when occasion requires 
ready action of the lower virtues. It often appears 
that a contemplative mind is more capable of action 
than an actively objective one. Dr. Emerson says: 
"It is good to know that it has been recorded 
of Alcott, the benign idealist, that when the Rev. 
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, heading the rush on 
the U. S. Court House in Boston, to rescue a fugitive 
slave, looked back for his following at the court-room 
door, only the apostolic philosopher was there cane 



"THE ALCOTTS" 53 

in hand." So it seems that his idealism had some 
substantial virtues, even if he couldn't make a living. 

The daughter does not accept the father as a proto- 
type — she seems to have but few of her father's quali- 
ties "in female." She supported the family and at 
the same time enriched the lives of a large part of 
young America, starting off many little minds with 
wholesome thoughts and many little hearts with 
wholesome emotions. She leaves memory-word- 
pictures of healthy, New England childhood days, — 
pictures which are turned to with affection by middle- 
aged children, — pictures, that bear a sentiment, a 
leaven, that middle-aged America needs nowadays 
more than we care to admit. 

Concord village, itself, reminds one of that common 
virtue lying at the height and root of all the Concord 
divinities. As one walks down the broad-arched 
street, passing the white house of Emerson — ascetic 
guard of a former prophetic beauty — he comes pres- 
ently beneath the old elms overspreading the Alcott 
house. It seems to stand as a kind of homely but 
beautiful witness of Concord's common virtue — it 
seems to bear a consciousness that its past is living, 
that the "mosses of the Old Manse" and the hickories 
of Walden are not far away. Here is the home of the 
"Marches" — all pervaded with the trials and happi- 
ness of the family and telling, in a simple way, the 
story of "the richness of not having." Within the 
house, on every side, lie remembrances of what ima- 
gination can do for the better amusement of fortunate 
children who have to do for themselves — much-needed 
lessons in these days of automatic, ready-made, easy 



54 "THE ALCOTTS" 

entertainment which deaden rather than stimulate 
the creative faculty. And there sits the little old 
spinet-piano Sophia Thoreau gave to the Alcott 
children, on which Beth played the old Scotch airs, 
and played at the Fifth Symphony. 

There is a commonplace beauty about "Orchard 
House" — a kind of spiritual sturdiness underlying 
its quaint picturesqueness — a kind of common triad 
of the New England homestead, whose overtones tell 
us that there must have been something aesthetic 
fibered in the Puritan severity — the self-sacrificing 
part of the ideal — a value that seems to stir a deeper 
feeling, a stronger sense of being nearer some perfect 
truth than a Gothic cathedral or an Etruscan villa. 
All around you, under the Concord sky, there still 
floats the influence of that human faith melody, 
transcendent and sentimental enough for the enthu- 
siast or the cynic respectively, reflecting an innate 
hope — a common interest in common things and 
common men — a tune the Concord bards are ever 
playing, while they pound away at the immensities 
with a Beethovenlike sublimity, and with, may we 
say, a vehemence and perseverance — for that part of 
greatness is not so difficult to emulate. 

We dare not attempt to follow the philosophic 
raptures of Bronson Alcott — unless you will assume 
that his apotheosis will show how "practical" his 
vision in this world would be in the next. And so 
we won't try to reconcile the music sketch of the 
Alcotts with much besides the memory of that home 
under the elms — the Scotch songs and the family 
hymns that were sung at the end of each day — though 



"THE ALCOTTS" 55 

there may be an attempt to catch something of that 
common sentiment (which we have tried to suggest 
above)— a strength of hope that never gives way to 
despair— a conviction in the power of the common 
soul which, when all is said and done, may be as 
typical as any theme of Concord and its transcen- 
dent alists. 



THOREAU 

Thoreau was a great musician, not because he 
played the flute but because he did not have to go 
to Boston to hear "the Symphony." The rhythm 
of his prose, were there nothing else, would determine 
his value as a composer. He was divinely conscious 
of the enthusiasm of Nature, the emotion of her 
rhythms and the harmony of her solitude. In this 
consciousness he sang of the submission to Nature, 
the religion of contemplation, and the freedom of 
simplicity — a philosophy distinguishing between the 
complexity of Nature which teaches freedom, and 
the complexity of materialism which teaches slavery. 
In music, in poetry, in all art, the truth as one sees 
it must be given in terms which bear some proportion 
to the inspiration. In their greatest moments the 
inspiration of both Beethoven and Thoreau express 
profound truths and deep sentiment, but the intimate 
passion of it, the storm and stress of it, affected 
Beethoven in such a way that he could not but be 
ever showing it and Thoreau that he could not easily 
expose it. They were equally* imbued with it, but 
with different results. A difference in temperament 
had something to do with this, together with a 

56 



THOREAU 57 

difference in the quality of expression between the 
two arts. "Who that has heard a strain of music 
feared lest he would speak extravagantly forever," 
says Thoreau. Perhaps music is the art of speaking 
extravagantly. Herbert Spencer says that some men, 
as for instance Mozart, are so peculiarly sensitive 
to emotion . . . that music is to them but a continua- 
tion not only of the expression but of the actual 
emotion, though the theory of some more modern 
thinkers in the philosophy of art doesn't always bear 
this out. However, there is no doubt that in its 
nature music is predominantly subjective and tends 
to subjective expression, and poetry more objective 
tending to objective expression. Hence the poet when 
his muse calls for a deeper feeling must invert this 
order, and he may be reluctant to do so as these depths 
often call for an intimate expression which the physi- 
cal looks of the words may repel. They tend to reveal 
the nakedness of his soul rather than its warmth. 
It is not a matter of the relative value of the aspira- 
tion, or a difference between subconsciousness and 
consciousness but a difference in the arts themselves; 
for example, a composer may not shrink from hav- 
ing the public hear his "love letter in tones," while a 
poet may feel sensitive about having everyone read 
his "letter in words." When the object of the love is 
mankind the sensitiveness is changed only in degree. 
But the message of Thoreau, though his fervency 
may be inconstant and his human appeal not always 
direct, is, both in thought and spirit, as universal as 
that of any man who ever wrote or sang — as univer- 
sal as it is nontemporaneous — as universal as it is 



58 THOREAU 

free from the measure of history, as "solitude is free 
from the measure of the miles of space that intervene 
between man and his fellows." In spite of the fact 
that Henry James (who knows almost everything) 
says that "Thoreau is more than provincial — that he 
is parochial," let us repeat that Henry Thoreau, in 
respect to thought, sentiment, imagination, and 
soul, in respect to every element except that of place 
of physical being — a thing that means so much to 
some — is as universal as any personality in literature. 
That he said upon being shown a specimen grass from 
Iceland that the same species could be found in Con- 
cord is evidence of his universality, not of his paro- 
chialism. He was so universal that he did not need 
to travel around the world to prove it. "I have 
more of God, they more of the road." "It is not 
worth while to go around the world to count the cats 
in Zanzibar." With Marcus Aurelius, if he had seen 
the present he had seen all, from eternity and all 
time forever. 

Thoreau's susceptibility to natural sounds was 
probably greater than that of many practical musi- 
cians. True, this appeal is mainly through the 
sensational element which Herbert Spencer thinks 
the predominant beauty of music. Thoreau seems 
able to weave from this source some perfect tran- 
scendental symphonies. Strains from the Orient 
get the best of some of the modern French music 
but not of Thoreau. He seems more interested 
in than influenced hy Oriental philosophy. He ad- 
mires its ways of resignation and self-contemplation 
but he doesn't contemplate himself in the same way. 



THOREAU 59 

He often quotes from the Eastern scriptures passages 
which were they his own he would probably omit, 
i.e., the Vedas say "all intelligences awake with 
the morning." This seems unworthy of "accom- 
panying the undulations of celestial music" found 
on this same page, in which an "ode to morning " is 
sung — "the awakening to newly acquired forces and 
aspirations from within to a higher life than we fell 
asleep from . . . for all memorable events transpire 
in the morning time and in the morning atmosphere." 
Thus it is not the whole tone scale of the Orient but 
the scale of a Walden morning — "music in single 
strains," as Emerson says, which inspired many of 
the polyphonies and harmonies that come to us through 
his poetry. Who can be forever melancholy "with 
^olian music like this " ? 

This is but one of many ways in which Thoreau 
looked to Nature for his greatest inspirations. In her 
he found an analogy to the Fundamental of Tran- 
scendentalism. The "innate goodness" of Nature is 
or can be a moral influence; Mother Nature, if man 
will but let her, will keep him straight — straight 
spiritually and so morally and even mentally. If he 
will take her as a companion, and teacher, and not 
as a duty or a creed, she will give him greater thrills 
and teach him greater truths than man can give or 
teach — she will reveal mysteries that mankind has 
long concealed. It was the soul of Nature not natural 
history that Thoreau was after. A naturalist's mind 
is one predominantly scientific, more interested in 
the relation of a flower to other flowers than its rela- 
tion to any philosophy or anyone's philosophy. A 



6o THOREAU 

transcendent love of Nature and writing "Rhus 
glabra " after sumach doesn't necessarily make a 
naturalist. It would seem that although thorough 
in observation (not very thorough according to 
Mr. Burroughs) and with a keen perception of the 
specific, a naturalist — inherently — was exactly what 
Thoreau was not. He seems rather to let Nature put 
him under her microscope than to hold her under 
his. He was too fond of Nature to practice vivisec- 
tion upon her. He would have found that painful, * ' for 
was he not a part with her?" But he had this trait 
of a naturalist, which is usually foreign to poets, even 
great ones; he observed acutely even things that 
did not particularly interest him — a useful natural 
gift rather than a virtue. 

The study of Nature may tend to make one dog- 
matic, but the love of Nature surely does not. Thoreau 
no more than Emerson could be said to have com- 
pounded doctrines. His thinking was too broad for 
that. If Thoreau's was a religion of Nature, as some 
say, — and by that they mean that through Nature's 
influence man is brought to a deeper contemplation, 
to a more spiritual self -scrutiny, and thus closer to 
God, — it had apparently no definite doctrines. Some 
of his theories regarding natural and social phenom- 
ena and his experiments in the art of living are 
certainly not doctrinal in form, and if they are in 
substance it didn't disturb Thoreau and it needn't 
us. . . . "In proportion as he simplifies his life the 
laws of the universe will appear less complex and 
solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor 
weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the 



THOREAU 6i 

air your work need not be lost; that is where they 
should be, now put the foundations under them." . . . 
"Then we will love with the license of a higher order 
of beings." Is that a doctrine? Perhaps. At any 
rate, between the lines of some such passage as this 
lie some of the fountain heads that water the spiritual 
fields of his philosophy and the seeds from which they 
are sown (if indeed his whole philosophy is but one 
spiritual garden). His experiments, social and eco- 
nomic, are a part of its cultivation and for the harvest 
— and its transmutation, he trusts to moments of in- 
spiration — "only what is thought, said, and done 
at a certain rare coincidence is good." 

Thoreau's experiment at Walden was, broadly 
speaking, one of these moments. It stands out in 
the casual and popular opinion as a kind of adventure 
— harmless and amusing to some, significant and 
important to others; but its significance lies in 
the fact that in trying to practice an ideal he prepared 
his mind so that it could better bring others "into the 
Walden-state-of-mind." He did not ask for a literal 
approval, or in fact for any approval. "I would not 
stand between any man and his genius." He would 
have no one adopt his manner of life, unless in doing 
so he adopts his own — besides, by that time "I may 
have found a better one." But if he preached hard 
he practiced harder what he preached — harder than 
most men. Throughout Walden a text that he is 
always pounding out is "Time." Time for inside 
work out-of-doors; preferably out-of-doors, "though 
you perhaps may have some pleasant, thrilling, glori- 
ous hours, even in a poor house." Wherever the place 



62 THOREAU 

— time there must be. Time to show the unneces- 
sariness of necessities which clog up time. Time to 
contemplate the value of man to the universe, of the 
universe to man, man's excuse for being. Time from 
the demands of social conventions. Time from too 
much labor for some, which means too much to eat, 
too much to wear, too much material, too much mate- 
rialism for others. Time from the "hurry and waste 
of life." Time from the "St. Vitus Dance." But, on 
the other side of the ledger, time for learning that 
"there is no safety in stupidity alone." Time for 
introspection.. Time /or reality. Time /or expansion. 
Time /or practicing the art, of living the art of living. 
Thoreau has been criticized for practicing his policy 
of expansion by living in a vacuum — but he peopled 
that vacuum with a race of beings and established a 
social order there, surpassing any of the precepts in 
social or political history. "... for he put some 
things behind and passed an invisible boundary; 
new, universal, and more liberal laws were around and 
within him, the old laws were expanded and inter- 
preted in a more liberal sense and he lived with the 
license of a higher order" — a community in which 
"God was the only President" and "Thoreau not 
Webster was His Orator." It is hard to believe that 
Thoreau really refused to believe that there was any 
other life but his own, though he probably did think 
that there was not any other life besides his own for 
him. Living for society may not always be best 
accomplished by living with society. "Is there any 
virtue in a man's skin that you must touch it?" and 
the "rubbing of elbows may not bring men's minds 



THOREAU 63 

closer together "; or if he were talking through a ' ' worst 
seller ' ' (magazine) that ' ' had to put it over ' ' he might 
say, "forty thousand souls at a ball game does not, 
necessarily, make baseball the highest expression of 
spiritual emotion." Thoreau, however, is no cynic, 
either in character or thought, though in a side glance 
at himself, he may have held out to be one; a "cynic 
in independence," possibly because of his rule laid 
down that "self-culture admits of no compromise." 
It is conceivable that though some of his philo- 
sophy and a good deal of his personality, in some of 
its manifestations, have outward colors that do not 
seem to harmonize, the true and intimate relations they 
bear each other are not affected. This peculiarity, fre- 
quently seen in his attitude towards social-economic 
problems, is perhaps more emphasized in some of his 
personal outbursts. "I love my friends very much, 
but I find that it is of no use to go to see them. I 
hate them commonly when I am near." It is easier 
to see what he means than it is to forgive him for say- 
ing it. The cause of this apparent lack of harmon}^ 
between philosophy and personality, as far as they 
can be separated, may have been due to his refusal 
"to keep the very delicate balance" which Mr. 
Van Doren in his Critical Study of Thoreau says "it 
is necessary for a great and good man to keep between 
his public and private lives, between his own person- 
ality and the whole outside universe of personalities." 
Somehow one feels that if he had kept this balance 
he would have lost ' ' hitting power." Again, it seems 
that something of the above depends upon the degree 
of greatness or goodness. A very great and espe- 



64 THOREAU 

cially a very good man has no separate private and 
public life. His own personality though not identical 
with outside personalities is so clear or can be so 
clear to them that it appears identical, and as the 
world progresses towards its inevitable perfection 
this appearance becomes more and more a reality. 
For the same reason that all great men now agree, 
in principle but not in detail, in so far as words are 
able to communicate agreement, on the great funda- 
mental truths. Someone says: "Be specific — what 
great fundamentals?" Freedom over slavery; the 
natural over the artificial; beauty over ugliness; 
the spiritual over the material; the goodness of man; 
the Godness of man; God; with all other kindred 
truths that have been growing in expression through 
the ages, eras, and civilizations, innate things which 
once seemed foreign to the soul of humankind. All 
great men — there are millions of them now — agree 
on these. Around the relative and the absolute 
value of an attribute, or quality, or whatever it may 
be called, is where the fight is. The relative not from 
the absolute — but of it, always of it. Geniuses — and 
there are millions of them — differ as to what is beautiful 
and what is ugly, as to what is right and what is wrong 
— there are many interpretations of God — but they 
all agree that beauty is better than ugliness and right 
is better than wrong, and that there is a God — all 
are one when they reach the essence. Every analysis 
of a criticism or quality of Thoreau invariably leads 
back and stands us against the great problems of 
life and eternity. It is a fair indication of the great- 
ness of his problems and ideals. 



THOREAU 65 

The unsympathetic treatment accorded Thoreau 
on account of the false colors that his personality 
apparently gave to some of his important ideas and 
virtues, might be lessened if it were more constantly 
remembered that a command of his to-day is but a 
mood of yesterday and a contradiction to-morrow. 
He is too volatile to paint, much less to catalogue. 
If Thoreau did not over-say he said nothing. He 
says so himself. "I desire to speak somewhere 
without bounds like a man in a waking moment to 
men in their waking moments . . . for I am con- 
vinced that I cannot exaggerate enough even to lay 
a foundation for a true expression." For all that, it 
is not safe to think that he should never be taken 
literally, as for instance in the sentence above. His 
extravagance at times involves him but Thoreau 
never rejoices in it as Meredith seems to. He struggles 
against it and seems as much ashamed of being in- 
volved as the latter seems of not being. He seldom 
gets into the situation of Meredith — timidly wander- 
ing around with no clothes after stepping out of one 
of his involvedensities. This habit may be a part 
of the novelists' license, for perhaps their inspiration 
is less original and less natural than that of the poets, 
as traits of human weakness are unnatural to or " not 
an innate part with human nature." Perhaps if they 
(novelists) had broader sources for their inspiration 
they would hardly need licenses and perhaps they 
would hardly become novelists. For the same reason 
that Shakespeare might have been greater if he hadn't 
written plays. Some say that a true composer will 
never write an opera because a truly brave man will 



66 THOREAU 

not take a drink to keep up his courage; which is 
not the same thing as saying that Shakespeare is not 
the greatest figure in all literature; in fact, it is an 
attempt to say that many novels, most operas, all 
Shakespeares, and all brave men and women (rum or 
no rum) are among the noblest blessings with which 
God has endowed mankind — because, not being per- 
fect, they are perfect examples pointing to that per- 
fection which nothing yet has attained. 

Thoreau's mysticism at times throws him into 
elusive moods — but an elusiveness held by a thread 
to something concrete and specific, for he had too 
much integrity of mind for any other kind. In these 
moments it is easier to follow his thought than to 
follow him. Indeed, if he were always easy to follow, 
after one had caught up with him, one might find 
that it was not Thoreau. 

It is, however, with no mystic rod that he strikes 
at institutional life. Here again is felt the influence 
of the great transcendental doctrine of "innate 
goodness" in human nature — a reflection of the like 
in nature; a philosophic part which, by the way, 
was a more direct inheritance in Thoreau than in his 
brother transcendentalists. For besides what he re- 
ceived from a native Unitarianism a good part must 
have descended to him through his Huguenot blood 
from the "eighteenth-century French philosophy." 
We trace a reason here for his lack of interest in * * the 
church." For if revealed religion is the path between 
God and man's spiritual part — a kind of formal cause- 
way — Thoreau's highly developed spiritual life felt, ap- 
parently unconsciously, less need of it than most men. 



THOREAU 67 

But he might have been more charitable towards 
those who do need it (and most of us do) if he had 
been more conscious of his freedom. Those who look 
to-day for the cause of a seeming deterioration in 
the influence of the church may find it in a wider 
development of this feeling of Thoreau's; that the 
need is less because there is more of the spirit of 
Christianity in the world to-day. Another cause for 
his attitude towards the church as an institution is 
one always too common among "the narrow minds" 
to have influenced Thoreau. He could have been 
more generous. He took the arc for the circle, 
the exception for the rule, the solitary bad example 
for the many good ones. His persistent emphasis on 
the value of "example" may excuse this lower view- 
point. "The silent influence of the example of one 
sincere life . . . has benefited society more than all 
the projects devised for its salvation." He has little 
patience for the unpracticing preacher. "In some 
countries a hunting parson is no uncommon sight. 
Such a one might make a good shepherd dog but is 
far from being a good shepherd." It would have 
been interesting to have seen him handle the specu- 
lating parson, who takes a good salary — more per 
annum than all the disciples had to sustain their bodies 
during their whole lives — from a metropolitan reli- 
gious corporation for "speculating" on Sunday 
about the beauty of poverty, who preaches: "Take 
no thought (for your life) what ye shall eat or what 
ye shall drink nor yet what ye shall put on . . . 
lay not up for yourself treasure upon earth . . . 
take up thy cross and follow me"; who on Monday 



68 THOREAU 

becomes a "speculating" disciple of another god, 
and by questionable investments, successful enough 
to get into the "press," seeks to lay up a treasure of a 
million dollars for his old age, as if a million dollars 
could keep such a man out of the poor-house. 
Thoreau might observe that this one good example 
of Christian degeneracy undoes all the acts of regen- 
eracy of a thousand humble five-hundred-dollar 
country parsons; that it out-influences the "uncon- 
scious influence" of a dozen Dr. Bushnells if there 
be that many; that the repentance of this man who 
did not "fall from grace" because he never fell into 
it — that this unnecessary repentance might save this 
man's own soul but not necessarily the souls of the 
million head-line readers; that repentance would 
put this preacher right with the powers that be in 
this world — and the next. Thoreau might pass a 
remark upon this man's intimacy with God "as if he 
had a monopoly of the subject" — an intimacy that 
perhaps kept him from asking God exactly what his 
Son meant by the "camel," the "needle" — to say 
nothing of the "rich man." Thoreau might have 
wondered how this man nailed down the last plank 
in his bridge to salvation, by rising to sublime heights 
of patriotism, in his war against materialism; but 
would even Thoreau be so unfeeling as to suggest to 
this exhort er that his salvation might be clinched 
"if he would sacrifice his income" (not himself) 
and come-in to a real Salvation Army, or that the 
final triumph, the supreme happiness in casting aside 
this mere ^10,000 or $20,000 every year must be 
denied him — for was he not captain of the ship — must 



THOREAU 69 

he not stick to his passengers (in the first cabin — the 
very first cabin) — not that the ship was sinking but 
that he was ... we will go no further. Even 
Thoreau would not demand sacrifice for sacrifice 
sake — no, not even from Nature. 

Property from the standpoint of its influence in 
checking natural self-expansion and from the stand- 
point of personal and inherent right is another in- 
stitution that comes in for straight and cross-arm jabs, 
now to the stomach, now to the head, but seldom 
sparring for breath. For does he not say that "wher- 
ever a man goes, men will pursue him with their dirty 
institutions ' ' ? The influence of property, as he saw it, 
on morality or immorality and how through this it 
may or should influence "government" is seen by the 
following : " I am convinced that if all men were to 
live as simply as I did, then thieving and robbery 
would be unknown. These take place only in commu- 
nities where some have got more than is sufficient 
while others have not enough — 

Nee bella fuerunt, 
Fagimus astabat dum 
Scyphus ante dapes — 

You who govern public affairs, what need have 
you to employ punishments? Have virtue and the 
people will be virtuous." If Thoreau had made the 
first sentence read: "If all men were like me and 
were to live as simply," etc., everyone would agree 
with him. We ma}^ wonder here how he would ac- 
count for some of the degenerate types we are told 



70 THOREAU 

about in some of our backwoods and mountain 
regions. Possibly by assuming that they are an 
instance of perversion of the species. That the 
little civilizing their forbears experienced rendered 
these people more susceptible to the physical than 
to the spiritual influence of nature; in other words, 
if they had been purer naturists, as the Aztecs for 
example, they would have been purer men. Instead 
of turning to any theory of ours or of Thoreau for 
the true explanation of this condition — which is a 
kind of pseudo-naturalism — for its true diagnosis 
and permanent cure, are we not far more certain to 
find it in the radiant look of humilit3% love, and hope 
in the strong faces of those inspired souls who are 
devoting their lives with no little sacrifice to these 
outcasts of civilization and nature. In truth, may 
not mankind find the solution of its eternal problem 
— find it after and beyond the last, most perfect 
system of wealth distribution which science can ever 
devise — after and beyond the last sublime echo of 
the greatest socialistic symphonies — after and beyond 
every transcendent thought and expression in the 
simple example of these Christ-inspired souls — be they 
Pagan, Gentile, Jew, or angel. 

However, underlying the practical or impractical 
suggestions implied in the quotation above, which 
is from the last paragraph of Thoreau's Village, is the 
same transcendental theme of "innate goodness." 
For this reason there must be no limitation except 
that which will free mankind from limitation, and 
from a perversion of this "innate" possession. And 
"property" may be one of the causes of this perver- 



THOREAU 71 

sion — property in the two relations cited above. It 
is conceivable that Thoreau, to the consternation of 
the richest members of the Bolsheviki and Bour- 
geois, would propose a policy of liberation, a policy 
of a limited personal property right, on the ground 
that congestion of personal property tends to limit 
the progress of the soul (as well as the progress of the 
stomach) — letting the economic noise thereupon take 
care of itself — for dissonances are becoming beautiful 
— and do not the same waters that roar in a storm 
take care of the eventual calm? That this limit of 
property be determined not by the voice of the 
majority but by the brain of the majority under a 
government limited to no national boundaries. ''The 
government of the world I live in is not framed in 
after-dinner conversation" — around a table in a capi- 
tal city, for there is no capital — a government of 
principles not parties; of a few fundamental truths 
and not of many political expediencies. A govern- 
ment conducted by virtuous leaders, for it will be led 
by all, for all are virtuous, as then their "innate vir- 
tue" will no more be perverted by unnatural institu- 
tions. This will not be a millennium but a practical 
and possible application of uncommon common sense. 
For is it not sense, common or otherwise, for Nature 
to want to hand back the earth to those to whom it 
belongs — that is, to those who have to live on it? Is 
it not sense, that the average brains like the average 
stomachs will act rightly if they have an equal amount 
of the right kind of food to act upon and universal 
education is on the way with the right kind of food? 
Is it not sense then that all grown men and women 



72 THOREAU 

(for all are necessary to work out the divine "law of 
averages") shall have a direct not an indirect say 
about the things that go on in this world ? 

Some of these attitudes, ungenerous or radical, 
generous or conservative (as you will) , towards institu- 
tions dear to many, have no doubt given impressions 
unfavorable to Thoreau's thought and personality. 
One hears him called, by some who ought to know 
what they say and some who ought not, a crabbed, 
cold-hearted, sour-faced Yankee — a kind of a vision- 
ary sore-head — a cross-grained, egotistic recluse, — 
even non-hearted. But it is easier to make a state- 
ment than prove a reputation. Thoreau may be 
some of these things to those who make no distinc- 
tion between these qualities and the manner which 
often comes as a kind of by-product of an intense 
devotion to a principle or ideal. He was rude and 
unfriendly at times but shyness probably had some- 
thing to do with that. In spite of a certain self- 
possession he was diffident in most company, but, 
though he may have been subject to those spells 
when words do not rise and the mind seems wrapped 
in a kind of dull cloth which everyone dumbly stares 
at, instead of looking through — he would easily get 
off a rejoinder upon occasion. When a party of 
visitors came to Walden and some one asked Thoreau 
if he found it lonely there, he replied: "Only by 
your help." A remark characteristic, true, rude, if 
not witty. The writer remembers hearing a school- 
teacher in English literature dismiss Thoreau (and 
a half hour lesson, in which time all of Walden, — 
its surface — was sailed over) by saying that this 



THOREAU 73 

author (he called everyone "author" from Solomon 
down to Dr. Parkhurst) "was a kind of a crank 
who styled himself a hermit-naturalist and who idled 
about the woods because he didn't want to work." 
Some such stuff is a common conception, though 
not as common as it used to be. If this teacher 
had had more brains, it would have been a lie. 
The word idled is the hopeless part of this criti- 
cism, or rather of this uncritical remark. To ask 
this kind of a man, who plays all the "choice gems 
from celebrated composers " literally, always literally, 
and always with the loud pedal, who plays all hymns, 
wrong notes, right notes, games, people, and jokes lit- 
erally, and with the loud pedal, who will die literally 
and with the loud pedal — to ask this man to smile even 
faintly at Thoreau's humor is like casting a pearl be- 
fore a coal baron. Emerson implies that there is one 
thing a genius must have to be a genius and that is 
"mother wit." . . . " Doctor Johnson, Milton, Chau- 
cer, and Burns had it. Aunt Mary Moody Emerson 
has it and can write scrap letters. Who has it need 
never write anything but scraps. Henry Thoreau has 
it." His humor though a part of this wit is not always 
as spontaneous, for it is sometimes pun shape (so is 
Charles Lamb's) — but it is nevertheless a kind that 
can serenely transport us and which we can enjoy with- 
out disturbing our neighbors. If there are those who 
think him cold-hearted and with but little human 
sympathy, let them read his letters to Emerson's 
little daughter, or hear Dr. Emerson tell about the 
Thoreau home life and the stories of his boyhood — 
the ministrations to a runaway slave; or let them 



74 THOREAU 

ask old Sam Staples, the Concord sheriff about him. 
That he "was fond of a few intimate friends, but 
cared not one fig for people in the mass," is a state- 
ment made in a school history and which is super- 
ficially true. He cared too much for the masses — 
too much to let his personality be "massed"; too 
much to be unable to realize the futility of wear- 
ing his heart on his sleeve but not of wearing his path 
to the shore of "Walden" for future masses to walk 
over and perchance find the way to themselves. Some 
near-satirists are fond of telling us that Thoreau came 
so close to Nature that she killed him before he 
had discovered her whole secret. They remind us 
that he died with consumption but forget that he 
lived with consumption. And without using much 
charity, this can be made to excuse many of his 
irascible and uncongenial moods. You to whom that 
gaunt face seems forbidding — look into the eyes ! If 
he seems "dry and priggish" to you, Mr. Stevenson, 
"with little of that large unconscious geniality of the 
world's heroes," follow him some spring morning to 
Baker Farm, as he "rambles through pine groves . . . 
like temples, or like fleets at sea, full-rigged, with 
wavy boughs and rippling with light so soft and green 
and shady that the Druids would have forsaken their 
oaks to worship in them." Follow him to "the cedar 
wood beyond Flint's Pond, where the trees covered 
with hoary blue berries, spiring higher and higher, are 
fit to stand before Valhalla." Follow him, but not too 
closely, for you may see little, if you do — "as he walks 
in so pure and bright a light gilding its withered grass 
and leaves so softly and serenely bright that he thinks 



THOREAU 75 

he has never bathed in such a golden flood." Follow 
him as "he saunters towards the holy land till one day 
the sun shall shine more brightly than ever it has 
done, perchance shine into your minds and hearts 
and light up your whole lives with a great awakening, 
light as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside 
in autumn." Follow him through the golden flood 
to the shore of that "holy land," where he lies dying 
as men say — dying as bravely as he lived. You may 
be near when his stern old aunt in the duty of her 
Puritan conscience asks him: "Have you made your 
peace with God"? and you may see his kindly smile 
as he replies, "I did not know that we had ever 
quarreled." Moments like these reflect more nobility 
and equanimity perhaps than geniality — qualities, 
however, more serviceable to world's heroes. 

The personal trait that one who has affection for 
Thoreau may find worst is a combative streak, in 
which he too often takes refuge. "An obstinate 
elusiveness," almost a "contrary cussedness," as if 
he would say, which he didn't: "If a truth about 
something is not as I think it ought to be, I'll make 
it what I think, and it will be the truth — but if you 
agree with me, then I begin to think it may not be 
the truth." The causes of these unpleasant colors 
(rather than characteristics) are too easily attributed 
to a lack of human sympathy or to the assumption 
that they are at least symbols of that lack instead of 
to a supersensitiveness, magnified at times by ill 
health and at times by a subconsciousness of the 
futility of actually living out his ideals in this life. 
It has been said that his brave hopes were unrealized 



76 THOREATJ 

anywhere in his career — but it is certain that they 
started to be realized on or about May 6, 1862, and 
we doubt if 1920 will end their fulfillment or his career. 
But there were many in Concord who knew that within 
their village there was a tree of wondrous growth, 
the shadow of which — alas, too frequently — was the 
only part they were allowed to touch. Emerson 
was one of these. He was not only deeply conscious 
of Thoreau's rare gifts but in the Woodland Notes 
pays a tribute to a side of his friend that many others 
missed. Emerson knew that Thoreau's sensibilities 
too often veiled his nobilities, that a self-cultivated 
stoicism ever fortified with sarcasm, none the less se- 
curely because it seemed voluntary, covered a warmth 
of feeling. "His great heart, him a hermit made." 
A breadth of heart not easily measured, found only 
in the highest type of sentimentalists, the type which 
does not perpetually discriminate in favor of mankind. 
Emerson has much of this sentiment and touches it 
when he sings of Nature as "the incarnation of a 
thought," when he generously visualizes Thoreau, 
"standing at the Walden shore invoking the vision 
of a thought as it drifts heavenward into an incarna- 
tion of Nature." There is a Godlike patience in 
Nature, — in her mists, her trees, her mountains — 
as if she had a more abiding faith and a clearer 
vision than man of the resurrection and immor- 
tality! 

There comes to memory an old yellow-papered 
composition of school-boy days whose peroration 
closed with "Poor Thoreau; he communed with 
nature for forty odd years, and then died." "The 



THOREAU 77 

forty odd years," — we'll still grant that part, but he 
is over a hundred now, and maybe, Mr. Lowell, he 
is more lovable, kindlier, and more radiant with 
human sympathy to-day, than, perchance, you were 
fifty years ago. It may be that he is a far stronger, 
a far greater, an incalculably greater force in the moral 
and spiritual fibre of his fellow-countrymen through- 
out the world to-day than you dreamed of fifty years 
ago. You, James Russell Lowells! You, Robert 
Louis Stevensons! You, Mark Van Dorens! with 
your literary perception, your power of illumination, 
your brilliancy of expression, yea, and with your love 
of sincerity, you know your Thoreau, but not my 
Thoreau — that reassuring and true friend, who stood 
by me one "low" day, when the sun had gone down, 
long, long before sunset. You may know something 
of the affection that heart yearned for but knew it 
a duty not to grasp; you may know something of 
the great human passions which stirred that soul — 
too deep for animate expression — you may know all 
of this, all there is to know about Thoreau, but you 
know him not, unless you love him! 

And if there shall be a program for our music let 
it follow his thought on an autumn day of Indian 
summer at Walden — a shadow of a thought at first, 
colored by the mist and haze over the pond: 

Low anchored cloud, 
Fountain head and 
Source of rivers. . . . 
Dew cloth, dream drapery- 
Drifting meadow of the air. . . . 



78 THOREAU 

but this is momentary; the beauty of the day moves 
him to a certain restlessness — to aspirations more spe- 
cific — an eagerness for outward action, but through 
it all he is conscious that it is not in keeping with the 
mood for this "Day." As the mists rise, there comes 
a clearer thought more traditional than the first, a 
meditation more calm. As he stands on the side 
of the pleasant hill of pines and hickories in front of 
his cabin, he is still disturbed by a restlessness and 
goes down the white-pebbled and sandy eastern shore, 
but it seems not to lead him where the thought sug- 
gests — he climbs the path along the "bolder northern" 
and "western shore, with deep bays indented," and 
now along the railroad track, "where the ^olian 
harp plays." But his eagerness throws him into the 
lithe, springy stride of the specie hunter — the na- 
turalist — he is still aware of a restlessness ; with these 
faster steps his rhythm is of shorter span — it is still 
not the tempo of Nature, it does not bear the mood 
that the genius of the day calls for, it is too specific, 
its nature is too external, the introspection too buoy- 
ant, and he knows now that he must let Nature flow 
through him and slowly; he releases his more per- 
sonal desires to her broader rhythm, conscious that 
this blends more and more with the harmony of her 
solitude; it tells him that his search for freedom on 
that day, at least, lies in his submission to her, for 
Nature is as relentless as she is benignant. He 
remains in this mood and while outwardly still, he 
seems to move with the slow, almost monotonous 
swaying beat of this autumnal day. He is more 
contented with a "homely burden" and is more as- 



THOREAU 79 

sured of "the broad margin to his life; he sits in 
his sunny doorway . . . rapt in revery . . . amidst 
goldenrod, sandcherry, and sumach ... in undis- 
turbed solitude." At times the more definite per- 
sonal strivings for the ideal freedom, the former more 
active speculations come over him, as if he would 
trace a certain intensity even in his submission. "He 
grew in those seasons like corn in the night and they 
were better than any works of the hands. They 
were not time subtracted from his life but so much 
over and above the usual allowance." "He realized 
what the Orientals meant by contemplation and for- 
saking of works." "The day advanced as if to light 
some work of his — it was morning and lo ! now it is 
evening and nothing memorable is accomplished . . ." 
" The evening train has gone by," and "all the restless 
world with it. The fishes in the pond no longer feel 
its rumbling and he is more alone than ever. ..." 
His meditations are interrupted only by the faint 
sound of the Concord bell — 'tis prayer-meeting night 
in the village — "a melody as it were, imported into 
the wilderness. ..." " At a distance over the woods 
the sound acquires a certain vibratory hum as if the 
pine needles in the horizon were the strings of a harp 
which it swept. ... A vibration of the universal 
lyre. . . . Just as the intervening atmosphere makes 
a distant ridge of earth interesting to the eyes by the 
azure tint it imparts." . . . Part of the echo may 
be "the voice of the wood; the same trivial words 
and notes sung by the wood nymph." It is darker, 
the poet's flute is heard out over the pond and Walden 
hears the swan song of that "Day" and faintly 



8o THOREAU 

echoes. ... Is it a transcendental tune of Concord? 
T'is an evening when the "whole body is one sense," 
. . . and before ending his day he looks out over the 
clear, crystalline water of the pond and catches a 
glimpse of the shadow- thought he saw in the morn- 
ing's mist and haze — he knows that by his final sub- 
mission, he possesses the "Freedom of the Night." 
He goes up the "pleasant hillside of pines, hickories," 
and moonlight to his cabin, "with a strange liberty 
in Nature, a part of herself." 



VI 
EPILOGUE 



The futility of attempting to trace the source or 
primal impulse of an art-inspiration may be admitted 
without granting that human qualities or attributes 
which go with personality cannot be suggested, and 
that artistic intuitions which parallel them cannot be 
reflected in music. Actually accomplishing the latter 
is a problem, more or less arbitrary to an open mind, 
more or less impossible to a prejudiced mind. 

That which the composer intends to represent as 
"high vitality" sounds like something quite different 
to different listeners. That which I like to think 
suggests Thoreau's submission to nature may, to 
another, seem something like Hawthorne's "concep- 
tion of the relentlessness of an evil conscience" — and 
to the rest of our friends, but a series of unpleasant 
sounds. How far can the composer be held account- 
able? Beyond a certain point the responsibility is 
more or less undeterminable. The outside character- 
istics — that is, the points furthest away from the 
mergings — are obvious to mostly anyone. A child 
knows a "strain of joy," from one of sorrow. Those 
a little older know the dignified from the frivolous — 
6 8i 



82 EPILOGUE 

the Spring Song from the season in which the "mel- 
ancholy days have come" (though is there not a 
glorious hope in autumn!). But where is the definite 
expression of late-spring against early-summer, of 
happiness against optimism? A painter paints a 
sunset — can he paint the setting sun? 

In some century to come, when the school children 
will whistle popular tunes in quarter-tones — when 
the diatonic scale will be as obsolete as the pentatonic 
is now — perhaps then these borderland experiences 
may be both easily expressed and readily recognized. 
But maybe music was not intended to satisfy the 
curious definiteness of man. Maybe it is better to 
hope that music may always be a transcendental 
language in the most extravagant sense. Possibly 
the power of literally distinguishing these "shades 
of abstraction" — these attributes paralleled by "artis- 
tic intuitions" (call them what you will) — is ever to 
be denied man for the same reason that the beginning 
and end of a circle are to be denied. 



There may be an analogy — and on first sight it 
seems that there must be — between both the state and 
power of artistic perceptions and the law of perpetual 
change, that ever-flowing stream partly biological, 
partly cosmic, ever going on in ourselves, in nature, 
in all life. This may account for the difficulty of 
identifying desired qualities with the perceptions of 
them in expression. Many things are constantly 
coming into being, while others are constantly going 



EPILOGUE 83 

out — one part of the same thing is coming in while 
another part is going out of existence. Perhaps this 
is why the above conformity in art (a conformity 
which we seem naturally to look for) appears at times 
so unrealizable, if not impossible. It will be assumed, 
to make this theory clearer, that the "flow" or 
"change" does not go on in the art-product itself. 
As a matter of fact it probably does, to a certain 
extent — a picture, or a song, may gain or lose in value 
beyond what the painter or composer knew, by the 
progress and higher development in all art. Keats 
may be only partially true when he says that "A work 
of beauty is a joy forever" — a thing that is beautiful 
to me, is a joy to me, as long as it remains beautiful 
to me — and if it remains so as long as I live, it is so 
forever, that is, forever to me. If he had put it this 
way, he would have been tiresome, inartistic, but 
perhaps truer. So we will assume here that this 
change only goes on in man and nature; and that 
this eternal process in mankind is paralleled in some 
way during each temporary, personal life. 

A young man, two generations ago, found an iden- 
tity with his ideals, in Rossini; when an older man 
in Wagner. A young man, one generation ago, found 
his in Wagner, but when older in Cesar Franck or 
Brahms. Some may say that this change may not 
be general, universal, or natural, and that it may be 
due to a certain kind of education, or to a certain 
inherited or contracted prejudice. We cannot deny 
or affirm this, absolutely, nor will we try to even 
qualitatively — except to say that it will be generally 
admitted that Rossini, to-day, does not appeal to 



84 EPILOGUE 

this generation, as he did to that of our fathers. As 
far as prejudice or undue influence is concerned, and 
as an illustration in point, the following may be cited 
to show that training may have but little effect in 
this connection, at least not as much as usually sup- 
posed — for we believe this experience to be, to a 
certain extent, normal, or at least, not uncommon. 
A man remembers, when he was a boy of about fif- 
teen years, hearing his music-teacher (and father) who 
had just returned from a performance of Siegfried 
say with a look of anxious surprise that "somehow 
or other he felt ashamed of enjoying the music as he 
did," for beneath it all he was conscious of an under- 
current of "make-believe" — the bravery was make- 
believe, the love was make-believe, the passion, the 
virtue, all make-believe, as was the dragon — P. T. 
Barnum would have been brave enough to have gone 
out and captured a live one! But, that same boy at 
twenty-five was listening to Wagner with enthusiasm, 
his reality was real enough to inspire a devotion. The 
"Pries-Lied," for instance, stirred him deeply. But 
when he became middle-aged — and long before the 
Hohenzollern hog-marched into Belgium — this music 
had become cloying, the melodies threadbare — a sense 
of something commonplace — yes — of make-believe 
came. These feelings were fought against for associa- 
tion's sake, and because of gratitude for bygone pleas- 
ures — but the former beauty and nobility were not 
there, and in their place stood irritating intervals of 
descending fourths and fifths. Those once transcend- 
ent progressions, luxuriant suggestions of Debussy 
chords of the 9th, nth, etc., were becoming slimy. 



EPILOGUE 85 

An unearned exultation — a sentimentality deadening 
something within hides around in the music. Wagner 
seems less and less to measure up to the substance 
and reality of Cesar Franck, Brahms, d'Indy, or even 
Elgar (with all his tiresomeness), the wholesome- 
ness, manliness, humility, and deep spiritual, possibly 
religious feeling of these men seem missing and not 
made up for by his (Wagner's) manner and eloquence, 
even if greater than theirs (which is very doubtful). 
From the above we would try to prove that as this 
stream of change flows towards the eventual ocean 
of mankind's perfection, the art-works in which we 
identify our higher ideals come by this process to be 
identified with the lower ideals of those who embark 
after us when the stream has grown in depth. If we 
stop with the above experience, our theory of the 
effect of man's changing nature, as thus explaining 
artistic progress, is perhaps sustained. Thus would 
we show that the perpetual flow of the life stream is 
affected by and affects each individual river-bed of 
the universal watersheds. Thus would we prove that 
the Wagner period was normal, because we intuitively 
recognized whatever identity we were looking for at 
a certain period in our life, and the fact that it was so 
made the Franck period possible and then normal 
at a later period in our life. Thus would we assume 
that this is as it should be, and that it is not Wagner's 
content or substance or his lack of virtue, that some- 
thing in us has made us flow past him and not he 
past us. But something blocks our theory! Some- 
thing makes our hypotheses seem purely speculative 
if not useless. It is men like Bach and Beethoven. 



86 EPILOGUE 

Is it not a matter nowadays of common impression 
or general opinion (for the law of averages plays 
strongly in any theory relating to human attributes) 
that the world's attitude towards the substance and 
quality and spirit of these two men, or other men of 
like character, if there be such, has not been affected 
by the flowing stream that has changed us? But if 
by the measure of this public opinion, as well as it 
can be measured. Bach and Beethoven are being 
flowed past — not as fast perhaps as Wagner is, but 
if thc}^ are being passed at all from this deeper view- 
point, then this "change" theory holds. 

Here we shall have to assume, for we haven't 
proved it, that artistic intuitions can sense in music 
a weakening of moral strength and vitality, and that 
it is sensed in relation to Wagner and not sensed in 
relation to Bach and Beethoven. If, in this common 
opinion, there is a particle of change toward the latter's 
art, our theory stands — mind you, this admits a 
change in the manner, form, external expression, etc., 
but not in substance. If there is no change here 
towards the substance of these two men, our theory 
not only falls but its failure superimposes or allows 
us to presume a fundamental duality in music, and 
in all art for that matter. 

Does the progress of intrinsic beauty or truth (we 
assume there is such a thing) have its exposures as 
well as its discoveries? Does the non-acceptance of 
the foregoing theory mean that Wagner's substance 
and reality are lower and his manner higher; that 
his beauty was not intrinsic; that he was more inter- 
ested in the repose of pride than in the truth of hu- 



EPILOGUE 87 

mility? It appears that he chose the representative 
instead of the spirit itself, — that he chose consciously 
or unconsciously, it matters not, — the lower set of 
values in this dualism. These are severe accusations 
to bring — especially when a man is a little down as 
Wagner is to-day. But these convictions were present 
some time before he was banished from the Metro- 
politan. 

Wagner seems to take Hugo's place in Faguet's 
criticism of de Vigny that, "The staging to him 
(Hugo) was the important thing — not the conception 
— that in de Vigny, the artist was inferior to the poet " ; 
finally that Hugo and so Wagner have a certain 
pauvrete de fond. Thus would we ungenerously make 
Wagner prove our sum! But it is a sum that won't 
prove! The theory at its best does little more than 
suggest something, which if it is true at all, is a plati- 
tude, viz. : that progressive growth in all life makes 
it more and more possible for men to separate, in an 
art-work, moral weakness from artistic strength. 



Ill 

Human attributes are definite enough when it 
comes to their description, but the expression of them, 
or the paralleling of them in an art-process, has to 
be, as said above, more or less arbitrary, but we be- 
lieve that their expression can be less vague if the 
basic distinction of this art-dualism is kept in mind. 
It is morally certain that the higher part is founded, 
as Sturt suggests, on something that has to do with 
those kinds of unselfish human interests which we 



88 EPILOGUE 

call knowledge and morality — knowledge, not in the 
sense of erudition, but as a kind of creation or creative 
truth. This allows us to assume that the higher 
and more important value of this dualism is composed 
of what may be called reality, quality, spirit, or sub- 
stance against the lower value of form, quantity, or 
manner. Of these terms "substance" seems to us 
the most appropriate, cogent, and comprehensive 
for the higher and "manner" for the under-value. 
Substance in a human-art-quality suggests the body 
of a conviction which has its birth in the spiritual 
consciousness, whose youth is nourished in the moral 
consciousness, and whose maturity as a result of all 
this growth is then represented in a mental image. 
This is appreciated by the intuition, and somehow 
translated into expression by "manner" — a process 
always less important than it seems, or as suggested 
by the foregoing (in fact we apologize for this attempted 
definition). So it seems that "substance" is too 
indefinite to analyze, in more specific terms. It is 
practically indescribable. Intuitions (artistic or not?) 
will sense it — process, unknown. Perhaps it is an 
unexplained consciousness of being nearer God, or 
being nearer the devil — of approaching truth or ap- 
proaching unreality — a silent something felt in the 
truth-of-nature in Turner against the truth-of-art 
in Botticelli, or in the fine thinking of Ruskin against 
the fine soundings of Kipling, or in the wide-expanse 
of Titian against the narrow-expanse of Carpaccio, 
or in some such distinction that Pope sees between 
what he calls Homer's "invention" and Virgil's 
"judgment" — apparently an inspired imagination 



EPILOGUE 89 

against an artistic care, a sense of the difference, 
perhaps, between Dr. Bushnell's Knowing God and 
knowing ahotd God. A more vivid explanation or 
illustration may be found in the difference between 
Emerson and Poe. The former seems to be almost 
wholly "substance" and the latter "manner." The 
measure in artistic satisfaction of Poe's manner is 
equal to the measure of spiritual satisfaction in Emer- 
son's "substance." The total value of each man is 
high, but Emerson's is higher than Poe's because 
"substance" is higher than "manner" — because 
"substance" leans towards optimism, and "manner" 
pessimism. We do not know that all this is so, but 
we feel, or rather know by intuition that it is so, in 
the same way we know intuitively that right is higher 
than wrong, though we can't always tell why a thing 
is right or wrong, or what is always the difference or 
the margin between right and wrong. 

Beauty, in its common conception, has nothing to 
do with it (substance), unless it be granted that its 
outward aspect, or the expression between sensuous 
beauty and spiritual beauty can be always and dis- 
tinctly known, which it cannot, as the art of music 
is still in its infancy. On reading this over, it seems 
only decent that some kind of an apology be made for 
the beginning of the preceding sentence. It cannot 
justly be said that anything that has to do with art 
has nothing to do with beauty in any degree, — that 
is, whether beauty is there or not, it has something 
to do with it. A casual idea of it, a kind of a first 
necessary-physical impression, was what we had in 
mind. Probably nobody knows what actual beauty 



90 EPILOGUE 

is — except those serious writers of humorous essays in 
art magazines, who accurately, but kindly, with club 
in hand, demonstrate for all time and men that beauty 
is a quadratic monomial; that it is absolute; that it 
is relative; that it is not relative, that it is not. . . . 
The word "beauty" is as easy to use as the word 
"degenerate." Both come in handy when one does 
or does not agree with you. For our part, something 
that Roussel-Despierres says comes nearer to what 
we like to think beauty is . . . "an infinite source 
of good . . . the love of the beautiful ... a con- 
stant anxiety for moral beauty." Even here we go 
around in a circle — a thing apparently inevitable, if 
one tries to reduce art to philosophy. But personally, 
we prefer to go around in a circle than around in a 
parallelepipedon, for it seems cleaner and perhaps 
freer from mathematics — or for the same reason we 
prefer Whittier to Baudelaire — a poet to a genius, 
or a healthy to a rotten apple — probably not so much 
because it is more nutritious, but because we like its 
taste better; we like the beautiful and don't like the 
ugly; therefore, what we like is beautiful, and what 
we don't like is ugly — and hence we are glad the beau- 
tiful is not ugly, for if it were we would like something 
we don't like. So having unsettled what beauty is, 
let us go on. 

At any rate, we are going to be arbitrary enough to 
claim, with no definite qualification, that substance 
can be expressed in music, and that it is the only 
valuable thing in it, and moreover that in two separate 
pieces of music in which the notes are almost identical, 
one can be of "substance" with little "manner,'' 



EPILOGUE 91 

and the other can be of "manner" with little "sub- 
stance." Substance has something to do with char- 
acter. Manner has nothing to do with it. The 
"substance" of a tune comes from somewhere near 
the soul, and the "manner" comes from — God knows 
where. 

IV 

The lack of interest to preserve, or ability to per- 
ceive the fundamental divisions of this duality ac- 
counts to a large extent, we believe, for some or many 
various phenomena (pleasant or unpleasant accord- 
ing to the personal attitude) of modern art, and all 
art. It is evidenced in many ways — the sculptors' 
over-insistence on the "mold," the outer rather than 
the inner subject or content of his statue — over- 
enthusiasm for local color — over-interest in the multi- 
plicity of techniques, in the idiomatic, in the effect as 
shown, by the appreciation of an audience rather than 
in the effect on the ideals of the inner conscience of 
the artist or the composer. This lack of perceiving 
is too often shown by an over-interest in the material 
value of the effect. The pose of self-absorption, 
which some men, in the advertising business (and 
incidentally in the recital and composing business) 
put into their photographs or the portraits of them- 
selves, while all dolled up in their purple-dressing- 
gowns, in their twofold wealth of golden hair, in 
their cissy-like postures over the piano keys — this 
pose of "manner" sometimes sounds out so loud 
that the more their music is played, the less it is 
heard. For does not Emerson tell them this when 



92 EPILOGUE 

he says "What you are talks so loud, that I cannot 
hear what you say"? The unescapable impression 
that one sometimes gets by a glance at these public- 
inflicted trade-marks, and without having heard or 
seen any of their music, is that the one great under- 
lying desire of these appearing-artists, is to impress, 
perhaps startle and shock their audiences and at 
any cost. This may have some such effect upon 
some of the lady-part (male or female) of their 
listeners but possibly the members of the men-part, 
who as boys liked hockey better than birthday- 
parties, may feel like shocking a few of these picture- 
sitters with something stronger than their own 
forzandos. 

The insistence upon manner in its relation to local 
color is wider than a self-strain for effect. If local color 
is a natural part, that is, a part of substance, the art- 
effort cannot help but show its color — and it will be a 
true color, no matter how colored; if it is a part, even 
a natural part of "manner," either the color part is 
bound eventuall}^ to drive out the local part or the 
local drive out all color. Here a process of cancellation 
or destruction is going on — a kind of "compromise" 
which destroys by deadlock; a compromise purchas- 
ing a selfish pleasure — a decadence in which art becomes 
first dull, then dark, then dead, though through- 
out this process it is outwardly very much alive, — 
especially after it is dead. The same tendency may 
even be noticed if there is over-insistence upon the 
national in art. Substance tends to create affection; 
manner prejudice. The latter tends to efface the 
distinction between the love of both a country's 



EPILOGUE 93 

virtue and vices, and the love of only the virtue. A 
true love of country is likely to be so big that it will 
embrace the virtue one sees in other countries and, 
in the same breath, so to speak. A composer born 
in America, but who has not been interested in the 
"cause of the Freedmen," may be so interested in 
"negro melodies," that he writes a symphony over 
them. He is conscious (perhaps only subconscious) 
that he wishes it to be "American music." He tries 
to forget that the paternal negro came from Africa. 
Is his music American or African? That is the great 
question which keeps him awake! But the sadness 
of it is, that if he had been born in Africa, his music 
might have been just as American, for there is good 
authority that an African soul under an X-ray looks 
identically like an American soul. There is a futility 
in selecting a certain type to represent a "whole," 
unless the interest in the spirit of the type coincides 
with that of the whole. In other words, if this com- 
poser isn't as deeply interested in the "cause" as 
Wendell Phillips was, when he fought his way through 
that ant i- abolitionist crowd at Faneuil Hall, his 
music is liable to be less American than he wishes. 
If a middle-aged man, upon picking up the Scottish 
Chiefs, finds that his boyhood enthusiasm for the 
prowess and noble deeds and character of Sir Wm. 
Wallace and of Bruce is still present, let him put, 
or try to put that glory into an overture, let him fill 
it chuck-full of Scotch tunes, if he will. But after 
all is said and sung he will find that his music is 
American to the core (assuming that he is an American 
and wishes his music to be). It will be as national 



94 EPILOGUE 

in character as the heart of that Grand Army Grand- 
father, who read those Cragmore Tales of a summer 
evening, when that boy had brought the cows home 
without witching. Perhaps the memories of the old 
soldier, to which this man still holds tenderly, may be 
turned into a "strain" or a "sonata," and though the 
music does not contain, or even suggest any of the old 
war-songs, it will be as sincerely American as the 
subject, provided his (the composer's) interest, spirit, 
arid character sympathize with, or intuitively coin- 
cide with that of the subject. 

Again, if a man finds that the cadences of an Apache 
war-dance come nearest to his soul, provided he has 
taken pains to know enough other cadences — for 
eclecticism is part of his duty — sorting potatoes means 
a better crop next year — let him assimilate whatever 
he finds highest of the Indian ideal, so that he can use 
it with the cadences, fervently, transcendentally, in- 
evitably, furiously, in his symphonies, in his operas, 
in his whistlings on the way to work, so that he can 
paint his house with them — make them a part of his 
prayer-book — this is all possible and necessary, if he 
is confident that they have a part in his spiritual 
consciousness. With this assurance his music will 
have everything it should of sincerity, nobility, 
strength, and beauty, no matter how it sounds; and 
if, with this, he is true to none but the highest of 
American ideals (that is, the ideals only that coincide 
with his spiritual consciousness) his music will be 
true to itself and incidentally American, and it will 
be so even after it is proved that all our Indians came 
from Asia. 



EPILOGUE 95 

The man "born down to Babbitt's Corners," may 
find a deep appeal in the simple but acute "Gospel 
Hymns of the New England camp meetin'," of a 
generation or so ago. He finds in them — some of 
them — a vigor, a depth of feeling, a natural-soil 
rhythm, a sincerity, emphatic but inartistic, which, 
in spite of a vociferous sentimentality, carries him 
nearer the "Christ of the people" than does the Te 
Deum of the greatest cathedral. These tunes have, 
for him, a truer ring than many of those groove- 
made, even-measured, monotonous, non-rhythmed, 
indoor-smelling, priest-taught, academic, English or 
neo-English hymns (and anthems) — well-written, 
well-harmonized things, well- voice-led, well-counter- 
pointed, well corrected, and well O.K'd, by well 
corrected Mus. Bac. R.F.O.G.'s — personified sounds, 
correct and inevitable to sight and hearing — in a 
word, those proper forms of stained-glass beauty, 
which our over-drilled mechanisms — boy-choirs are 
limited to. But, if the Yankee can reflect the fer- 
vency with which ' ' his gospels ' ' were sung — the fer- 
vency of "Aunt Sarah," who scrubbed her life away, 
for her brother's ten orphans, the fervency with 
which this woman, after a fourteen-hour work day 
on the farm, would hitch up and drive five miles, 
through the mud and rain to "prayer meetin' " 
— her one articulate outlet for the fullness of her 
unselfish soul — if he can reflect the fervency of such 
a spirit, he may find there a local color that will do 
all the world good. If his music can but catch that 
"spirit" by being a part with itself, it will come some- 
where near his ideal — and it will be American, too. 



96 EPILOGUE 

perhaps nearer so than that of the devotee of Indian 
or negro melody. In other words, if local color, 
national color, any color, is a true pigment of the 
universal color, it is a divine quality, it is a part of 
substance in art — not of manner. 

The preceding illustrations are but attempts to 
show that whatever excellence an artist sees in life, 
a community, in a people, or in any valuable object 
or experience, if sincerely and intuitively reflected in 
his work, his work, and so he himself, is, in a way, 
a reflected part of that excellence. Whether he be ac- 
cepted or rejected, whether his music is always played, 
or never played — all this has nothing to do with it — 
it is true or false by his own measure. If we may be 
permitted to leave out two words, and add a few more, 
a sentence of Hegel appears to sum up this idea, 
"The universal need for expression in art lies in man's 
rational impulse to exalt the inner . . . world {i. e., 
the highest ideals he sees in the inner life of others) 
together with what he finds in his own life — into a 
spiritual consciousness for himself." The artist does 
feel or does not feel that a sympathy has been ap- 
proved by an artistic intuition and so reflected in his 
work. Whether he feels this sympathy is true or not 
in the final analysis, is a thing probably that no one 
but he (the artist) knows — but the truer he feels it, 
the more substance it has, or as Sturt puts it, "his 
work is art, so long as he feels in doing it as true artists 
feel, and so long as his object is akin to the objects 
that true artists admire." 

Dr. Griggs in an Essay on Debussy,^ asks if 
* John C. Griggs, " Debussy," Yale Review, 1914. 



EPILOGUE 97 

this composer's content is worthy the manner. Per- 
haps so, perhaps not — Debussy himself, doubtless, 
could not give a positive answer. He would better 
know how true his feeling and sympathy was, and 
anyone else's personal opinion can be of but little help 
here. 

We might offer the suggestion that Debussy's 
content would have been worthier his manner, if he 
had hoed corn or sold newspapers for a living, for in 
this way he might have gained a deeper vitality and 
truer theme to sing at night and of a Sunday. Or we 
might say that what substance there is, is "too 
coherent" — it is too clearly expressed in the first 
thirty seconds. There you have the ** whole frag- 
ment," a translucent syllogism, but then the reality, 
the spirit, the substance stops and the "form," the 
"parfume," the "manner," shimmer right along, as 
the soapsuds glisten after one has finished washing. 
Or we might say that his substance would have been 
worthier, if his adoration or contemplation of Nature, 
which is often a part of it, and which rises to great 
heights, as is felt for example, in La Mer, had been 
more the quality of Thoreau's. Debussy's attitude 
toward Nature seems to have a kind of sensual sensu- 
ousness underlying it, while Thoreau's is a kind of 
spiritual sensuousness. It is rare to find a farmer or 
peasant whose enthusiasm for the beauty in Nature 
finds outward expression to compare with that of 
the city-man who comes out for a Sunday in the 
country, but Thoreau is that rare country-man and 
Debussy the city-man with his week-end flights into 
country-aesthetics. We would be inclined to say 

7 



98 EPILOGUE 

that Thoreau leaned towards substance and Debussy 
towards manner. 



There comes from Concord, an offer to every mind 
— the choice between repose and truth, and God 
makes the offer. "Take which you please . . . 
between these, as a pendulum, man oscillates. He in 
whom the love of repose predominates will accept 
the first creed, the first philosophy, the first political 
party he meets," most likely his father's. He gets 
rest, commodity, and reputation. Here is another 
aspect of art-duality, but it is more drastic than 
ours, as it would eliminate one part or the other. A 
man ma^^ aim as high as Beethoven or as high as 
Richard Strauss. In the former case the shot may 
go far below the mark; in truth, it has not been 
reached since that "thunder storm of 1828" and there 
is little chance that it will be reached by anyone liv- 
ing to-day, but that matters not, the shot will never 
rebound and destroy the marksman. But, in the 
latter case, the shot may often hit the mark, but as 
often rebound and harden, if not destroy, the shooter's 
heart — even his soul. What matters it, men say, he 
will then find rest, commodity, and reputation — what 
matters it — if he find there but few perfect truths — 
what matters (men say) — he will find there perfect 
media, those perfect instruments of getting in the 
way of perfect truths. 

This choice tells why Beethoven is always modern 
and Strauss always mediaeval — try as he may to 
cover it up in new bottles. He has chosen to capital- 



EPILOGUE 99 

ize a "talent" — he has chosen the complexity of 
media, the shining hardness of externals, repose, 
against the inner, invisible activity of truth. He has 
chosen the first creed, the easy creed, the philosophy 
of his fathers, among whom he found a half-idiot- 
genius (Nietzsche). His choice naturally leads him 
to glorify and to magnify all kind of dull things — a 
stretched-out geigermusik — which in turn naturally 
leads him to "windmills" and "human heads on 
silver platters." Magnifying the dull into the 
colossal, produces a kind of "comfort" — the comfort 
of a woman who takes more pleasure in the fit of 
fashionable clothes than in a healthy body — the kind 
of comfort that has brought so many "adventures of 
baby-carriages at county fairs" — "the sensation 
of Teddy bears, smoking their first cigarette "—on 
the program of symphony orchestras of one hundred 
performers, — the lure of the media — the means — 
not the end — but the finish, — thus the failure to 
perceive that thoughts and memories of childhood 
are too tender, and some of them too sacred to be 
worn lightly on the sleeve. Life is too short for these 
one hundred men, to say nothing of the composer 
and the "dress-circle," to spend an afternoon in this 
way. They are but like the rest of us, and have only 
the expectancy of the mortality-table to survive — 
perhaps only this "piece." V'e cannot but feel that 
a too great desire for "repose" accounts for such 
phenomena. A MS. score is brought to a concert- 
master — he may be a violinivSt — he is kindly disposed, 
he looks it over, and casually fastens on a passage 
"that's bad for the fiddh';., it doesn't hang just right, 



100 EPILOGUE 

write it like this, they will play it better." But that 
one phrase is the germ of the whole thing. "Never 
mind, it will fit the hand better this way — it will 
sound better." My God! what has sound got to 
do with music! The waiter brings the only fresh 
egg he has, but the man at breakfast sends it back 
because it doesn't fit his eggcup. Why can't music 
go out in the same way it comes in to a man, without 
having to crawl over a fence of sounds, thoraxes, 
catguts, wire, wood, and brass? Consecutive-fifths 
are as harmless as blue laws compared with the relent- 
less tyranny of the "media." The instrument! — 
there is the perennial difficulty — there is music's 
limitations. Why must the scarecrow of the key- 
board — the tyrant in terms of the mechanism (be it 
Caruso or a Jew's-harp) stare into every measure? 
Is it the composer's fault that man has only ten 
fingers? Why can't a musical thought be presented 
as it is bom — perchance "a bastard of the slums," 
or a "daugh*-er of a bishop" — and if it happens to 
go better later on a bass-drum (than upon a harp) 
get a good bass-drummer.^ That music must be 
heard, is not essential — what it sounds like may not 
be what it is. Perhaps the day is coming when music- 
believers will learn "that silence is a solvent . . . that 
gives us leave to be universal" rather than personal. 

^The first movement (Emerson) of the music, which is the 
cause of all these words, was f^rst thought of (we believe) in 
terms of a large orchestra, the second (Hawthorne) in terms of 
a piano or a dozen pianos, the third (Allcotts) — of an organ (or 
piano with voice or violin), an«. the last (Thoreau), in terms of 
strings, colored possibly with a ' tne or horn. 



EPILOGUE loi 

Some fiddler was once honest or brave enough, or 
perhaps ignorant enough, to say that Beethoven 
didn't know how to write for the violin, — that, may- 
be, is one of the many reasons Beethoven is not a 
Vieuxtemps. Another man says Beethoven's piano 
sonatas are not pianistic — with a little effort, perhaps, 
Beethoven could have become a Thalberg. His 
symphonies are perfect-truths and perfect for the 
orchestra of 1820 — but Mahler could have made 
them — possibly did make them — we will say, "more 
perfect," as far as their media clothes are concerned, 
and Beethoven is to-day big enough to rather like it. 
He is probably in the same amiable state of mind that 
the Jesuit priest said, "God was in," when He looked 
down on the camp ground and saw the priest sleeping 
with a Congregational Chaplain. Or in the same state 
of mind you'll be in when you look down and see the 
sexton keeping your tombstone up to date. The 
truth of Joachim offsets the repose of Paganini and 
Kubelik. The repose and reputation of a successful 
pianist — (whatever that means) who plays Chopin 
so cleverly that he covers up a sensuality, and in such 
a way that the purest-minded see nothing but sen- 
suous beauty in it, which, by the way, doesn't dis- 
turb him as much as the size of his income-tax — the 
repose and fame of this man is offset by the truth 
and obscurity of the village organist who plays 
Lowell Mason and Bach with such affection that he 
would give his life rather than lose them. The truth 
and courage of this organist, who risks his job, to 
fight the prejudice of the congregation, offset the 
repose and large salar}^ of a more celebrated choir- 



102 EPILOGUE 

master, who holds his job by lowering his ideals, 
who is willing to let the organ smirk under an insipid, 
easy-sounding barcarolle for the offertory, who is 
willing to please the sentimental ears of the music 
committee (and its wives) — who is more willing to 
observe these forms of politeness than to stand up 
for a stronger and deeper music of simple devotion, 
and for a service of a spiritual unity, the kind of thing 
that Mr. Bossitt, who owns the biggest country place, 
the biggest bank, and the biggest "House of God" 
in town (for is it not the divine handiwork of his 
own — pocketbook) — the kind of music that this man, 
his wife, and his party (of property right in pews) 
can't stand because it isn't "pretty." 

The doctrine of this "choice" may be extended to 
the distinction between literal-enthusiasm and natural- 
enthusiasm (right or wrong notes, good or bad tones 
against good or bad interpretation, good or bad senti- 
ment) or between observation and introspection, or 
to the distinction between remembering and dreaming. 
Strauss remembers, Beethoven dreams. We see 
this distinction also in Goethe's confusion of the 
moral with the intellectual. There is no such confu- 
sion in Beethoven — to him they are one. It is told, 
and the story is so well known that we hesitate to 
repeat it here, that both these men were standing 
in the street one day when the Emperor drove by 
— Goethe, like the rest of the crowd, bowed and 
uncovered — but Beethoven stood bolt upright, and 
refused even to salute, saying: "Let him bow to us, 
for ours is a nobler empire." Goethe's mind knew this 
was true, but his moral courage was not instinctive. 



EPILOGUE 103 

This remembering faculty of "repose," throws the 
mind in unguarded moments quite naturally towards 
"manner" and thus to the many things the media 
can do. It brings on an itching to over-use them — 
to be original (if anyone will tell what that is) with 
nothing but numbers to be original with. We are 
told that a conductor (of the orchestra) has written 
a symphony requiring an orchestra of one hundred 
and fifty men. If his work perhaps had one hundred 
and fifty valuable ideas, the one hundred and fifty 
men might be justifiable — but as it probably contains 
not more than a dozen, the composer may be uncon- 
sciously ashamed of them, and glad to cover them 
up under a hundred and fifty men. A man may 
become famous because he is able to eat nineteen 
dinners a day, but posterity will decorate his stomach, 
not his brain. 

Manner breeds a cussed-cleverness — only to be 
clever — a satellite of super-industrialism, and perhaps 
to be witty in the bargain, not the wit in mother-wit, 
but a kind of indoor, artificial, mental arrangement 
of things quickly put together and which have been 
learned and studied — it is of the material and stays 
there, while humor is of the emotional and of the 
approaching spiritual. Even Dukas, and perhaps 
other Gauls, in their critical heart of hearts, may admit 
that "wit" in music, is as impossible as "wit" at a 
funeral. The wit is evidence of its lack. Mark 
Twain could be humorous at the death of his dearest 
friend, but in such a way as to put a blessing into the 
heart of the bereaved. Humor in music has the same 
possibilities. But its quantity has a serious effect 



I04 EPILOGUE 

on its qualit}^ "inverse ratio" is a good formula to 
adopt here. Comedy has its part, but wit never. 
Strauss is at his best in these lower rooms, but his 
comedy reminds us more of the physical fun of Lever 
rather than "comedy in the Meredithian sense" as 
Mason suggests. Meredith is a little too deep or too 
subtle for Strauss — unless it be granted that cynicism 
is more a part of comedy than a part of refined- 
insult. Let us also remember that Mr. Disston, not 
Mr. Strauss, put the funny notes in the bassoon. 
A symphony written only to amuse and entertain 
is likely to amuse only the writer — and him not long 
after the check is cashed. 

"Genius is always ascetic and piety and love," 
thus Emerson reinforces "God's offer of this choice" 
by a transcendental definition. The moment a famous 
violinist refused "to appear" until he had received 
his check, — at that moment, precisely (assuming for 
argument's sake, that this was the first time that 
materialism had the ascendency in this man's soul) 
at that moment he became but a man of "talent" — 
incidentally, a small man and a small violinist, regard- 
less of how perfectly he played, regardless to what 
heights of emotion he stirred his audience, regard- 
less of the sublimity of his artistic and financial 
success. 

d'Annunzio, it is told, becoming somewhat dis- 
couraged at the result of some of his Fiume adven- 
tures said : " We are the only Idealists left." This 
remark ma}^ have been made in a moment of careless 
impulse, but if it is taken at its face value, the 
moment it was made that moment his idealism started 



EPILOGUE 105 

downhill. A grasp at monopoly indicates that a sud- 
den shift has taken place from the heights where genius 
may be found, to the lower plains of talent. The 
mind of a true idealist is great enough to know that 
a monopoly of idealism or of wheat is a thing nature 
does not support. 

A newspaper music column prints an incident 
(so how can we assume that it is not true?) of an 
American violinist who called on Max Reger, to tell 
him how much he (the American) appreciated his 
music. Reger gives him a hopeless look and cries: 
' ' What ! a musician and not speak German ! " At that 
moment, by the clock, regardless of how great a genius 
he may have been before that sentence was uttered — at 
that moment he became but a man of * ' talent. ' ' * ' For 
the man of talent affects to call his transgressions of 
the laws of sense trivial and to count them nothing 
considered with his devotion to his art." His art 
never taught him prejudice or to wear only one eye. 
" His art is less for every deduction from his holiness 
and less for every defect of common sense." And 
this common sense has a great deal to do with this 
distinguishing difference of Emerson's between genius 
and talent, repose and truth, and between all evidences 
of substance and manner in art. Manner breeds 
partialists. "Is America a musical nation?" — if the 
man who is ever asking this question would sit down 
and think something over he might find less interest in 
asking it — he might possibly remember that all nations 
are more musical than any nation, especially the 
nation that pays the most — and pays the most eagerly, 
for anything, after it has been professionally — rubber- 



io6 EPILOGUE 

stamped. Music may be yet unborn. Perhaps no 
music has ever been written or heard. Perhaps the 
birth of art will take place at the moment, in which the 
last man, who is willing to make a living out of art 
is gone and gone forever. In the history of this 
youthful world the best product that human-beings 
can boast of is probably, Beethoven — but, maybe, 
even his art is as nothing in comparison with the future 
product of some coal-miner's soul in the forty-first 
century. And the same man who is ever asking about 
the most musical nation, is ever discovering the most 
musical man of the most musical nation. When 
particularly hysterical he shouts, "I have found him ! 
Smith Grabholz — the one great American poet, — at 
last, here is the Moses the country has been waiting 
for" — (of course we all know that the country has not 
been waiting for anybody — and we have many Moses 
always with us). But the discoverer keeps right on 
shouting "Here is the one true American poetry, I 
pronounce it the work of a genius. I predict for him 
the most brilliant career — for his is an art that . . . — 
for his is a soul that . . . for his is a . . . and Grab- 
holz is ruined; — but ruined, not alone, by this peren- 
nial discoverer of pearls in any oyster-shell that treats 
him the best, but ruined by his own (Grabholz's) 
talent, — for genius will never let itself be discovered by 
**a man." Then the world may ask "Can the one 
true national "this" or "that" be killed by its own 
discoverer? "No," the country replies, "but each 
discovery is proof of another impossibility." It is a 
sad fact that the one true man and the one true art 
will never behave as they should except in the mind of 



EPILOGUE 107 

the partialist whom God has forgotten. But this 
matters little to him (the man) — his business is good — 
for it is easy to sell the future in terms of the past — and 
there are always some who will buy anything. The 
individual usually ''gains'' if he is willing to but lean 
on "manner." The evidence of this is quite wide- 
spread, for if the discoverer happens to be in any other 
line of business his sudden discoveries would be just as 
important — to him. In fact, the theory of substance 
and manner in art and its related dualisms, "repose 
and truth, genius and talent," &c., may find illus- 
tration in many, perhaps most, of the human activities. 
And when examined it (the illustration) is quite likely 
to show how "manner " is always discovering partisans. 
For example, enthusiastic discoveries of the "para- 
gon" is common in politics, — an art to some. These 
revelations, in this profession are made easy by the 
pre-election discovering-leaders of the people. And 
the genius who is discovered, forthwith starts his 
speeches of "talent" — though they are hardly that — 
they are hardly more than a string of subplatitudes, 
square-looking, well-rigged things that almost every- 
body has seen, known, and heard since Rome or man 
fell. Nevertheless these signs of perfect manner, 
these series of noble sentiments that the "noble " never 
get off, are forcibly, clearly, and persuasively handed 
out — eloquently, even beautifully expressed, and with 
such personal charm, magnetism, and strength, that 
their profound messages speed right through the 
minds and hearts, without as much as spattering the 
walls, and land right square in the middle of the lis- 
tener's vanity. For all this is a part of manner and its 



io8 EPILOGUE 

quality is of splendor — for manner is at times a good 
bluff but substance a poor one and knows it. The 
discovered one's usual and first great outburst is pro- 
bably the greatest truth that he ever utters. Fear- 
lessly standing, he looks straight into the eyes of the 
populace and with a strong ringing voice (for strong 
voices and strong statesmanship are inseparable) and 
with words far more eloquent than the following, he 
sings "This honor is greater than I deserve but duty 
calls me — (what, not stated) ... If elected, I shall 
be your servant . . . (for, it is told, that he believes 
in modesty, — that he has even boasted that he is the 
most modest man in the country) . . . Thus he has 
the right to shout, *' First, last and forever I am for the 
people. I am against all bosses. I have no sympathy 
for politicians. I am for strict economy, liberal 
improvements and justice! I am also for the — ten 
commandments " (his intuitive political sagacity keeps 
him from mentioning any particular one). — But a 
sublime height is always reached in his perorations. 
Here we learn that he believes in honesty — (repeat 
''honesty'')] — we are even allowed to infer that he is 
one of the very few who know that there is such a 
thing; and we also learn that since he was a little 
boy (barefoot) his motto has been "Do Right," — he 
swerves not from the right! — he believes in nothing 
but the right ; (to him — everything is right ! — if it gets 
him elected) ; — but cheers invariably stop this great 
final truth (in brackets) from rising to animate 
expression. Now all of these translucent axioms are 
true (are not axioms always true?), — as far as manner 
is concerned. In other words, the manner functions 



EPILOGUE 109 

perfectly. But where is the divine-substance? This 
is not there — why should it be — if it were he might 
not be there. "Substance" is not featured in this 
discovery. For the truth of substance is sometimes 
silence, sometimes ellipses, — and the latter if supplied 
might turn some of the declarations above into perfect 
truths, — for instance "first and last and forever I am 
for the people ('s votes). I'm against all bosses 
(against me). I have no sympathy for (rival) poli- 
ticians," etc., etc. But these tedious attempts at 
comedy should stop, — they're too serious, — besides 
the illustration may be a little hard on a few, the 
minority (the non-people) though not on the many, 
the majority (the people) ! But even an assumed 
parody may help to show what a power manner is for 
reaction unless it is counterbalanced and then satur- 
ated by the other part of the duality. Thus it appears 
that all there is to this great discovery is that one good 
politician has discovered another good politician. 
For manner has brought forth its usual talent; — for 
manner cannot discover the genius who has discarded 
platitudes — the genius who has devised a new and 
surpassing order for mankind, simple and intricate 
enough, abstract and definite enough, locally impracti- 
cal and universally practical enough, to wipe out 
the need for further discoveries of "talent" and 
incidentally the discoverer's own fortune and political 
"manner." Furthermore, he (this genius) never will 
be discovered until the majority-spirit, the common- 
heart, the human-over soul, the source of all great 
values, converts all talent into genius, all manner into 
substance — until the direct expression of the mind 



no EPILOGUE 

and soul of the majority, the divine right of all con- 
sciousness, social, moral, and spiritual, discloses the 
one true art and thus finally discovers the one true 
leader — even itself: — then no leaders, no politicians, 
no manner, will hold sway — and no more speeches will 
be heard. 

The intensity to-day, with which techniques and 
media are organized and used, tends to throw the 
mind away from a "common sense" and towards 
"manner" and thus to resultant weak and mental 
states — for example, the Byronic fallacy — that one 
who is full of turbid feeling about himself is qualified 
to be some sort of an artist. In this relation * ' manner" 
also leads some to think that emotional sympathy 
for self is as true a part of art as sympathy for others ; 
and a prejudice in favor of the good and bad of one 
personality against the virtue of many personalities. 
It may be that when a poet or a whistler becomes 
conscious that he is in the easy path of any particular 
idiom, — that he is helplessly prejudiced in favor of any 
particular means of expression, — that his manner can 
be catalogued as modern or classic, — that he favors a 
contrapuntal groove, a sound-coloring one, a sensuous 
one, a successful one, or a melodious one (whatever 
that means), — that his interests lie in the French 
school or the German school, or the school of Saturn, 
— that he is involved in this particular "that" or that 
particular "this," or in any particular brand of 
emotional complexes, — in a word, when he becomes 
conscious that his style is "his personal own," — that 
it has monopolized a geographical part of the world's 
sensibilities, then it mav be that the value of his sub- 



EPILOGUE III 

stance is not growing, — that it even may have started 
on its way backwards, — it may be that he is trading 
an inspiration for a bad habit and finally that he is 
reaching fame, permanence, or some other under- 
value, and that he is getting farther and farther from a 
perfect truth. But, on the contrary side of the pic- 
ture, it is not unreasonable to imagine that if he (this 
poet, composer, and laborer) is open to all the over- 
values within his reach, — if he stands unprotected 
from all the showers of the absolute which may beat 
upon him, — if he is willing to use or learn to use, or at 
least if he is not afraid of trying to use, whatever he 
can, of any and all lessons of the infinite that humanity 
has received and thrown to man, — that nature has 
exposed and sacrificed, that life and death have 
translated — if he accepts all and sympathizes with 
all, is influenced by all, whether consciously or sub- 
consciously, drastically or humbly, audibly or inaudi- 
bly, whether it be all the virtue of Satan or the only evil 
of Heaven — and all, even, at one time, even in one 
chord, — then it may be that the value of his substance, 
and its value to himself, to his art, to all art, even to 
the Common Soul is growing and approaching nearer 
and nearer to perfect truths — whatever they are and 
wherever they may be. 

Again, a certain kind of manner-over-insistence may 
be caused by a group-disease germ. The over-influence 
by, the over-admiration of, and the over-association 
with a particular artistic personality or a particular 
type or group of personalities tends to produce equally 
favorable and unfavorable symptoms, but the un- 
favorable ones seem to be more contagious. Perhaps 



112 EPILOGUE 

the impulsive remark of some famous man (whose 
name we forget) that he "loved music but hated 
musicians," might be followed (with some good re- 
sults) at least part of the time. To see the sun rise, 
a man has but to get up early, and he can always have 
Bach in his pocket. We hear that Mr. Smith or Mr. 
Morgan, etc., et al. design to establish a "course at 
Rome," to raise the standard of American music, 
(or the standard of American composers — which is it ?) 
but possibly the more our composer accepts from his 
patrons " et al." the less he will accept from himself. 
It may be possible that a day in a "Kansas wheat 
field" will do more for him than three years in Rome. 
It may be, that many men — perhaps some of genius 
— (if you won't admit that all are geniuses) have 
been started on the downward path of subsidy by 
trying to write a thousand dollar prize poem or a ten 
thousand dollar prize opera. How many master- 
pieces have been prevented from blossoming in this 
way? A cocktail will make a man eat more, but will 
not give him a healthy, normal appetite (if he had 
not that already). If a bishop should offer a "prize 
living" to the curate who will love God the hardest 
for fifteen days, whoever gets the prize would love 
God the least. Such stimulants, it strikes us, tend 
to industrialize art, rather than develop a spiritual 
sturdiness — a sturdiness which Mr. Sedgwick says^ 
"shows itself in a close union between spiritual life 
and the ordinary business of life," against spiritual 
feebleness which "shows itself in the separation of the 

'H.D.Sedgwick. The New American Type. Riverside Press. 



EPILOGUE 113 

two." If one's spiritual sturdiness is congenital 
and somewhat perfect he is not only conscious that 
this separation has no part in his own soul, but he 
does not feel its existence in others. He does not 
believe there is such a thing. But perfection in this 
respect is rare. And for the most of us, we believe, 
this sturdiness would be encouraged by anything that 
will keep or help us keep a normal balance between 
the spiritual life and the ordinary life. If for every 
thousand dollar prize a potato field be substituted, 
so that these candidates of "Clio" can dig a little 
in real life, perhaps dig up a natural inspiration, arts- 
air might be a Httle clearer — a little freer from certain 
traditional delusions, for instance, that free thought 
and free love always go to the same cafe — that at- 
mosphere and diligence are synonymous. To quote 
Thoreau incorrectly: "When half-Gods talk, the Gods 
walk!" Everyone should have the opportunity of 
not being over-influenced. 

Again, this over-influence by and over-insistence 
upon "manner" may finally lead some to believe 
"that manner for manner's sake is a basis of music." 
Someone is quoted as saying that "ragtime is the 
true American music." Anyone will admit that it 
is one of the many true, natural, and, nowadays, 
conventional means of expression. It is an idiom, 
perhaps a "set or series of colloquialisms," similar 
to those that have added through centuries and 
through natural means, some beauty to all languages. 
Every language is but the evolution of slang, and 
possibly the broad "A" in Harvard may have come 
down from the * ' butcher of Southwark. ' ' To examine 

8 



114 EPILOGUE 

ragtime rhythms and the syncopations of Schumann 
or of Brahms seems to the writer to show how much 
alike they are not. Ragtime, as we hear it, is, of 
course, more (but not much more) than a natural 
dogma of shifted accents, or a mixture of shifted and 
minus accents. It is something like wearing a derby 
hat on the back of the head, a shuffling lilt of a happy 
soul just let out of a Baptist Church in old Alabama. 
Ragtime has its possibilities. But it does not "repre- 
sent the American nation" any more than some 
fine old senators represent it. Perhaps we know it 
now as an ore before it has been refined into a product. 
It may be one of nature's ways of giving art raw 
material. Time will throw its vices away and weld its 
virtues into the fabric of our music. It has its uses as 
the cruet on the boarding-house table has, but to make 
a meal of tomato ketchup and horse-radish, to plant a 
whole farm with sunflowers, even to put a sunflower 
into every bouquet, would be calling nature something 
worse than a politician. Mr. Daniel Gregory Mason, 
whose wholesome influence, by the way, is doing as 
much perhaps for music in America as American 
music is, amusingly says: "If indeed the land of 
Lincoln and Emerson has degenerated until nothing 
remains of it but a 'jerk and rattle, ' then we, at least, 
are free to repudiate this false patriotism of ' my Coun- 
try right or wrong, ' to insist that better than bad 
music is no music, and to let our beloved art subside 
finally under the clangor of the subway gongs and 
automobile horns, dead, but not dishonored." And 
so may we ask: Is it better to sing inadequately of the 
"leaf on Walden floating," and die "dead but not dis- 



EPILOGUE 115 

honored," or to sing adequately of the "cherry on the 
cocktail," and live forever? 



VI 

If anyone has been strong enough to escape these 
rocks — this "Scylla and Charybdis," — has survived 
these wrong choices, these under-values with their 
prizes, Bohemias and heroes, is not such a one in 
a better position, is he not abler and freer to "de- 
clare himself and so to love his cause so singly that 
he will cleave to it, and forsake all else? What is 
this cause for the American composer but the utmost 
musical beauty that he, as an individual man, with 
his own qualities and defects, is capable of understand- 
ing and striving towards? — forsaking all else except 
those types of musical beauty that come home to 
him,"^ and that his spiritual conscience intuitively 
approves. 

"It matters not one jot, provided this course of 
personal loyalty to a cause be steadfastly pursued, 
what the special characteristics of the style of the 
music may be to which one gives one's devotion."* 
This, if over-translated, may be made to mean, what 
we have been trying to say — that if your interest, 
enthusiasm, and devotion on the side of substance 
and truth, are of the stuff to make you so sincere that 
you sweat — to hell with manner and repose! Mr. 
Mason is responsible for too many young minds, in 
their planting season to talk like this, to be as rough, 

^ Contemporary Composers, D. G. Mason, Macmillan Co., 
N. Y. 



ii6 EPILOGUE 

or to go as far, but he would probably admit that, 
broadly speaking — some such way, i. e., constantly 
recognizing this ideal duality in art, though not the 
most profitable road for art to travel, is almost its 
only way out to eventual freedom and salvation. 
Sidney Lanier, in a letter to Bayard Taylor writes: 
* ' I have so many fair dreams and hopes about music 
in these days (1875). It is gospel whereof the people 
are in great need. As Christ gathered up the Ten 
Commandments and redistilled them into the clear 
liquid of the wondrous eleventh — love God utterly 
and thy neighbor as thyself — so I think the time will 
come when music rightly developed to its now little 
foreseen grandeur will be found to be a late revelation 
of all gospels in one." Could the art of music, or 
the art of anything have a more profound reason for 
being than this? A conception unlimited by the 
narrow names of Christian, Pagan, Jew, or Angel! 
A vision higher and deeper than art itself ! 



VII 

The humblest composer will not find true humility 
in aiming low — he must never be timid or afraid of 
trying to express that which he feels is far above his 
power to express, any more than he should be afraid 
of breaking away, when necessary, from easy first 
sounds, or afraid of admitting that those half truths 
that come to him at rare intervals, are half true, 
for instance, that all art galleries contain master- 
pieces, which are nothing more than a history of art's 
beautiful mistakes. He should never fear of being 



EPILOGUE 117 

called a high-brow — but not the kind in Prof. Brander 
Matthews' definition. John L. Sullivan was a 
"high-brow" in his art. A high-brow can always whip 
a low-brow. 

If he "truly seeks," he "will surely find" many 
things to sustain him. He can go to a part of Alcott's 
philosophy — "that all occupations of man's body 
and soul in their diversity come from but one mind 
and soul!" If he feels that to subscribe to all of the 
foregoing and then submit, though not as evidence, 
the work of his own hands is presumptuous, let him 
remember that a man is not always responsible for 
the wart on his face, or a girl for the bloom on her 
cheek, and as they walk out of a Sunday for an airing, 
people will see them — but they must have the air. 
He can remember with Plotinus, "that in every human 
soul there is the ray of the celestial beauty," and 
therefore every human outburst may contain a partial 
ray. And he can believe that it is better to go to 
the plate and strike out than to hold the bench down, 
for by facing the pitcher, he may then know the 
umpire better, and possibly see a new parabola. His 
presumption, if it be that, may be but a kind of 
courage Juvenal sings about, and no harm can then 
be done either side. '' Cantahit vacuus coram latrone 
viator.''' 

VIII 

To divide by an arbitrary line something that 
cannot be divided is a process that is disturbing to 
some. Perhaps our deductions are not as inevitable 
as they are logical, which suggests that they are not 



ii8 EPILOGUE 

"logic." An arbitrary assumption is never fair to 
all any of the time, or to anyone all the time. Many 
will resent the abrupt separation that a theory of 
duality in music suggests and say that these general 
subdivisions are too closely inter-related to be labeled 
decisively — "this or that." There is justice in this 
criticism, but our answer is that it is better to be 
short on the long than long on the short. In such an 
abstruse art as music it is easy for one to point to 
this as substance and to that as manner. Some will 
hold and it is undeniable — in fact quite obvious — 
that manner has a great deal to do with the beauty 
of substance, and that to make a too arbitrary divi- 
sion, or distinction between them, is to interfere, to 
some extent, with an art's beauty and unity. There 
is a great deal of truth in this too. But on the other 
hand, beauty in music is too often confused with 
something that lets the ears lie back in an easy chair. 
Many sounds that we are used to, do not bother us, 
and for that reason, we are inclined to call them beau- 
tiful. Frequently, — possibly almost invariably,— 
analytical and impersonal tests will show, we believe, 
that when a new or unfamiliar work is accepted as 
beautiful on its first hearing, its fundamental quality 
is one that tends to put the mind to sleep. A narcotic 
is not always unnecessary, but it is seldom a basis of 
progress, — that is, wholesome evolution in any crea- 
tive experience. This kind of progress has a great 
deal to do with beauty — at least in its deeper emo- 
tional interests, if not in its moral values. (The 
above is only a personal impression, but it is based on 
carefully remembered instances, during a period of 



EPILOGUE 119 

about fifteen or twenty years.) Possibly the fondness 
for individual utterance may throw out a skin-deep 
arrangement, which is readily accepted as beautiful 
— formulae that weaken rather than toughen up the 
musical-muscles. If the composer's sincere concep- 
tion of his art and of its functions and ideals, coincide 
to such an extent with these groove-colored permuta- 
tions of tried out progressions inexpediency, that he 
can arrange them over and over again to his trans- 
cendent delight — has he or has he not been drugged 
with an overdose of habit-forming sounds? And as 
a result do not the muscles of his clientele become 
flabbier and flabbier until they give way altogether 
and find refuge only in a seasoned opera box — where 
they can see without thinking? And unity is too gen- 
erally conceived of, or too easily accepted as analogous 
to form, and form (as analogous) to custom, and cus- 
tom to habit, and habit may be one of the parents of 
custom and form, and there are all kinds of parents. 
Perhaps all unity in art, at its inception, is half -natural 
and half-artificial but time insists, or at least makes us, 
or inclines to make us feel that it is all natural. It is 
easy for us to accept it as such. The "unity of dress " 
for a man at a ball requires a collar, yet he could dance 
better without it. Coherence, to a certain extent, must 
bear some relation to the listener's subconscious per- 
spective. For example, a critic has to listen to a 
thousand concerts a year, in which there is much 
repetition, not only of the same pieces, but the same 
formal relations of tones, cadences, progessions, etc. 
There is present a certain routine series of image- 
necessity-stimulants, which he doesn't seem to need 



120 EPILOGUE 

until they disappear. Instead of listening to music, 
he listens around it. And from this subconscious 
viewpoint, he inclines perhaps more to the thinking 
about than thinking in music. If he could go into 
some other line of business for a year or so perhaps 
his perspective would be more naturally normal. 
The unity of a sonata movement has long been asso- 
ciated with its form, and to a greater extent than is 
necessary. A first theme, a development, a second 
in a related key and its development, the free fantasia, 
the recapitulation, and so on, and over again. Mr. 
Richter or Mr. Parker may tell us that all this is 
natural, for it is based on the classic-song form, but 
in spite of your teachers a vague feeling sometimes 
creeps over you that the form-nature of the song has 
been stretched out into deformity. Some claim for 
Tchaikowsky that his clarity and coherence of design 
is unparalleled (or some such word) in works for the 
orchestra. That depends, it seems to us, on how far 
repetition is an essential part of clarity and coherence. 
We know that butter comes from cream — but how 
long must we watch the "churning arm!" If nature 
is not enthusiastic about explanation, why should 
Tschaikowsky be ? Beethoven had to churn, to 
some extent, to make his message carry. He had to 
pull the ear, hard and in the same place and several 
times, for the 1790 ear was tougher than the 1890 
one. But the "great Russian weeper" might have 
spared us. To Emerson, "unity and the over-soul, 
or the common-heart, are synonymous." Unity is 
at least nearer to these than to solid geometry, though 
geometry may be all unity. 



EPILOGUE 121 

But to whatever unpleasantness the holding to 
this theory of duality brings us, we feel that there is 
a natural law underneath it all, and like all laws of 
nature, a liberal interpretation is the one nearest the 
truth. What part of these supplements are opposites ? 
What part of substance is manner? What part of 
this duality is polarity? These questions though not 
immaterial may be disregarded, if there be a sincere 
appreciation (intuition is always sincere) of the 
** divine" spirit of the thing. Enthusiasm for, and 
recognition of these higher over these lower values 
will transform a destructive iconoclasm into creation, 
and a mere devotion into consecration — a consecra- 
tion which, like Amphion's music, will raise the Walls 
of Thebes. 

IX 

Assuming, and then granting, that art-activity 
can be transformed or led towards an eventual 
consecration, by recognizing and using in their true 
relation, as much as one can, these higher and lower 
dual values — and that the doing so is a part, if not the 
whole of our old problem of paralleling or approving 
in art the highest attributes, moral and spiritual, one 
sees in life — if you will grant all this, let us offer a 
practical suggestion — a thing that one who has im- 
posed the foregoing should try to do just out of com- 
mon decency, though it be but an attempt, perhaps, 
to make his speculations less speculative, and to 
beat off metaphysics. 

All, men-bards with a divine spark, and bards 
without, feel the need at times of an inspiration from 



122 EPILOGUE 

without, "the breath of another soul to stir our inner 
flame," especially when we are in pursuit of a part 
of that "utmost musical beauty," that we are capable 
of understanding — when we are breathlessly running 
to catch a glimpse of that unforeseen grandeur of 
Mr. Lanier's dream. In this beauty and grandeur 
perhaps marionettes and their souls have a part — 
though how great their part is, we hear, is still unde- 
termined; but it is morally certain that, at times, a 
part with itself must be some of those greater con- 
templations that have been caught in the "World's 
Soul," as it were, and nourished for us there in the 
soil of its literature. 

If an interest in, and a sympathy for, the thought- 
visions of men like Charles Kingsley, Marcus Aurelius, 
Whittier, Montaigne, Paul of Tarsus, Robert Brown- 
ing, Pythagoras, Channing, Milton, Sophocles, Swed- 
enborg, Thoreau, Francis of Assisi, Wordsworth, 
Voltaire, Garrison, Plutarch, Ruskin, Ariosto, and 
all kindred spirits and souls of great measure, from 
David down to Rupert Brooke, — if a study of the 
thought of such men creates a sympathy, even a love 
for them and their ideal-part, it is certain that this, 
however inadequately expressed, is nearer to what 
music was given man for, than a devotion to "Tristan's 
sensual love of Isolde," to the "Tragic Murder of a 
Drunken Duke," or to the sad thoughts of a bath- 
tub when the water is being let out. It matters little 
here whether a man who paints a picture of a useless 
beautiful landscape imperfectly is a greater genius 
than the man who paints a useful bad smell perfectly. 

It is not intended in this suggestion that inspira- 



EPILOGUE 123 

tions coming from the higher planes should be limited 
to any particular thought or work, as the mind re- 
ceives it. The plan rather embraces all that should 
go with an expression of the composite-value. It is 
of the underlying spirit, the direct unrestricted im- 
print of one soul on another, a portrait, not a photo- 
graph of the personality — it is the ideal part that would 
be caught in this canvas. It is a sympathy for 
"substance" — the over-value together with a con- 
sciousness that there must be a lower value — the 
"Demosthenic part of the Philippics" — the "Ciceronic 
part of the Catiline," the sublimity, against the vile- 
ness of Rousseau's Confessions. It is something akin to, 
but something more than these predominant partial 
tones of Hawthorne — "the grand old countenance of 
Homer; the decrepit form, but vivid face of ^sop; 
the dark presence of Dante; the wild Ariosto; Rabe- 
lais' smile of deep-wrought mirth; the profound, 
pathetic humor of Cervantes ; the all-glorious Shake- 
speare; Spenser, meet guest for allegoric structure; 
the severe divinity of Milton; and Bunyon, molded 
of humblest clay, but instinct with celestial fire." 

There are communities now, partly vanished, but 
cherished and sacred, scattered throughout this 
world of ours, in which freedom of thought and soul, 
and even of body, have been fought for. And we 
believe that there ever lives in that part of the over- 
soul, native to them, the thoughts which these free- 
dom-struggles have inspired. America is not too 
young to have its divinities, and its place legends. 
Many of those "Transcendent Thoughts" and 
"Visions" which had their birth beneath our Concord 



124 EPILOGUE 

elms — messages that have brought salvation to many 
listening souls throughout the world — are still growing, 
day by day, to greater and greater beauty — are still 
showing clearer and clearer man's way to God! 

No true composer will take his substance from an- 
other finite being — but there are times, when he feels 
that his self-expression needs some liberation from 
at least a part of his own soul. At such times, shall 
he not better turn to those greater souls, rather than 
to the external, the immediate, and the "Garish 
Day"? 

The strains of one man may fall far below the 
course of those Phaetons of Concord, or of the JEgean 
Sea, or of Westmoreland — but the greater the distance 
his music falls away, the more reason that some 
greater man shall bring his nearer those higher spheres. 



•f.,. 



mmmmmm 
mymmmw0 






iMlii